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So what do I do when I don’t belong?

So what do I do when I feel I don’t belong? I’ve read your blog last week that “sense of place is a tangible, sensory experience of the physical environment, or an embodied sensing of a physical place”, but please make it practical. I moved to another town to be with someone who supports me financially, but he hits me. Do I belong in this relationship, in this place? Or, we have to moved to another country so that my husband can study further and now we have to move again, but then I won’t be able to pursue my career any more, and it feels so far from my family. How do we make this decision? How do we create a home for us, find a place where we belong?

Perhaps I should have mentioned that in my opinion, the sense of first belonging is in your body – to experience a sense of ease in your body and a sense of acceptance of who you are in the body you have – in the body you are. If that sense of first belonging is not established from birth and re-affirmed through a sense of unconditional acceptance, also through adequate and appropriate touch, it’s difficult to do it in a reliable way later – but not impossible.

So if you have a feeling that you don’t belong, I would first explore the sense of belonging in your own body. But our bodies do make meaning of a certain place – through smell, texture, the quality of light, moving through a space, touch, taste – and the kind of relationships we form in that place. Sometimes we arrive at a point in our life, that who we are and who we want to be, does not correspond to the place we live in – or in narrative terms, where the landscape of action doesn’t support the landscape of consciousness/ identity (see there I wander into theory again…). And then perhaps, it’s time to move on.

Narrative psychologists Jill Freedman and Gene Combs define landscape of consciousness as “that imaginary territory where people plot new meanings, desires, intentions, beliefs, commitments, motivations, values, and the like that relate to their experience in the landscape of action. In other words, in the landscape of consciousness, people reflect on the implications of experiences storied in the landscape of action.” Real and vivid stories should make meaning, and this meaning is developed in the landscape of consciousness.

I would imagine that there should be some kind of equilibrium between place and identity, between the bodies we are and the spaces we move and make meaning in. If that is teared and disrupted then a new space should be found to make new meaning in. Different kinds of violence (physical, emotional, economic, political etc.) can also lead to different kinds of displacement – uprooted and dislodged by force, which is often very traumatic.

The crucial component that should be explored when trying to figure out if you belong in a certain place, is the quality of relationships you are in. If these relationships do not support making sense of your life in a specific place, then perhaps it’s time to move on…

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