The Human Need to Belong

Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Humans have a need to belong and form relationships. This lesson will discuss why this need is important, where it may have come from, and what happens when it isn't being met.

The Need to Belong

Imagine you recently brought a young puppy home. Everything is going smoothly until you put the puppy in a room by itself to go to bed. The puppy whines loudly because it is left alone. Before long, you put the puppy in bed with you so it will stop making noise and you can get some sleep! Why did the puppy keep whining before you put it in bed with you? The puppy whined because it was alone, and this made it uncomfortable.

Humans are not much different from the puppy in our example. We have a need to be connected to other people. This is called the need to belong. The need to belong is instinctual and is a crucial element of our wellbeing throughout our lives. When this need is not being met, we experience psychological discomfort.

Why We Want to Belong

We mentioned the need to belong is instinctual. This means we weren't taught that belonging was important. We were born feeling this way, just like our new puppy. Researchers believe our need to belong may be evolutionary in origin. When humans were still hunters and gatherers, they found strength in numbers. For example, a group of humans would have a better chance than a lone human of surviving the attack of a wild animal. Humans who were able to develop strong group relationships had an increased level of survival.

Importance of Relationships

Our instinctual need to belong motivates us to develop strong social relationships. These relationships improve the quality of our lives. Relationships nourish us both physically and emotionally. They provide us with a sense of identity and security. We can fulfill our need to belong through the connections we make with friends, family, co-workers, or community groups.

Family relationships are our first opportunity to fulfill our need to belong.

When we belong, we feel cared for and valued. We have someone to turn to for support when life becomes difficult. A link exists between a positive sense of belonging and our ability to function in the world around us. Strong social relationships provide us with a greater capacity to manage stress and anxiety, making them essential to our health and happiness. Imagine the difference between a puppy raised in a loving home and a puppy that has had no social interaction.

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