Searching to belong
I recently read a great and mind-stretching book entitled 'The Search to Belong' by Joseph Myers.
He says that there are four 'spaces' of belonging.
The first space is public space
Public belonging occurs when people connect through an outside influence. For example, you might be a fan of a particular footy team, a member of a political party or a regular at bridge or bingo. It might even be when you are with others in a traffic jam or neverending queue. Even though we don't personally know the others in the public space, these are still significant relationships in our lives.
Then there is social space
Social belonging occurs with people we see regularly, such as the bank teller or the local pharmacist. It might be at the work place, or at a party. In this space we share ‘snapshots’ of what it would be like to be in personal space with us. 'First impressions’ apply. Social space is important because it provides the space for ‘neighbour’ relationships, where you know someone well enough to ask for or provide small favours. It is also a ‘sorting’ space for those who you want to get to know better and invite into your ‘personal space’.
Obviously, there is personal space
We share private (but not naked) experiences, feelings and thoughts here. We call these people ‘close friends’. They know more about us than an acquaintance (who belongs to social space) yet not so much that we or they feel uncomfortable.
Intimate space is the final space of belonging
Here we share naked experiences, feelings and thoughts. Very few relationships are intimate.
Myers' theory is that a harmonious sense of belonging can be written like an equation: P8S4P2I. In other words, for every one intimate belonging, there are two parts personal, four parts social and eight parts public.
A healthy belonging may not exist in someone who has, for example, six intimate relationships and no public or social relationships. It will also be skewed in a person who belongs everywhere publically, but nowhere personally.
I wonder if you can add another space of belonging - a physical place? Perhaps that goes with the public sphere, but I think it might be different. There are certainly physical and spatial ideas of belonging in many people's lives. It's one of the 'missing links' for children who move around the world a lot and who often feel that they don't connect to a certain place.
I'm giving a series of talks next year to returned missionary kids, and thought I'd speak broadly about 'making friends', but this book will give me some added food for thought. More on this tomorrow!