What does it mean to dance for connection? Why do we need a sense of belonging?
Call me a Pollyanna, a hopeless optimist. I imagine a world where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Regardless of ability, color, religion, age, race, country of origin.
At every age and every stage of life, it is important to feel that one is part of the social fabric of community. A sense of belonging is essential for all of us, every human being, from birth until death. Newborn babies develop every aspect of their growth within relationship.
Belonging is a basic human need…
According to Dr. Stuart Brown, “Belonging is a basic human need, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being.” (link)
Dr. Kenneth Pelletier of the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention agrees: “A sense of belonging . . . appears to be a basic human need– as basic as food and shelter. In fact, social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those who become ill”. (Pelletier, K.R. (1995).Sound Mind, Sound Body: A New Model for Life-Long Health. Simon and Schuster.)
How is it, then, that so many people feel as though they are outsiders, that they don’t belong? Maybe the dynamics in their family of origin contributed. Perhaps they were not allowed to play. Certainly adolescents are notorious for cliques, allowing some to join while keeping others outside. With the increasing rate of teen suicide, it seems this issue is vitally important. CDC estimates 4600 youth/year. (link) Bullies, too, are usually isolated.
“Most children fail in school not because they lack the necessary cognitive skills, but because they feel detached, alienated, and isolated from others and from the educational process. When children feel rejected by others, they either internalize the rejection and learn to hate themselves or externalize the rejection and learn to hate others.” (PDF)
People with disabilities are also ostracized; disabilities such as autism, mental illness, learning disabilities, physical challenges, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
Being rejected, not feeling that one belongs, causes more people to suffer feelings of isolation than not. This leads to loneliness.
It strikes me that so much of this suffering is needless. If we understood that the laws governing nature also govern human nature/behavior, we might look for the lowest common denominator. What do we all have in common? That we are human beings, of the species Homo sapiens and that we all have bodies.
Dance, when the intention is to build connection, is powerful because it celebrates our commonalities.
In 1993, I was one of four dance/movement therapists employed to provide services to frail elders as part of a research project investigating the effect of dance/movement therapy on mood, social interaction and physical functioning of nursing home residents and adult day health clients.
Music therapist Michele Forinash did the qualitative aspect of the research study to provide a better “understanding of essential elements of the dance/movement therapy experience.” Based on the four therapists’ narratives which included clinicians’ clinical process notes, personal reactions, and general impressions, Forinash found, with all four therapists in agreement, the Phenomenon of Connection; that is, an essential continuum of connectedness, both internal and external underpinning all of our work. (Forinash, M. (1996) Facets of connectedness: A Phenomenology of dance/movement therapy with the frail elderly. Unpublished.)
It’s all about connection
I have come to think of this continuum of connection as a connection to self, others, and the world around as in connecting to our internal rhythms, to our bodies, ourselves, our feelings, thoughts, and memories. (Newman-Bluestein, 2013; Getting to the Heart of the Matter: A Handout, 2015).
Only when a person feels they belong will they contribute their unique gifts. Only then will we minimize human suffering and maximize human potential. This would provide us with significantly greater resources and social capital.
“[A]s a society, . . . we have everything to gain and everything to lose, in how well or how poorly we manage our need for human connection.” (Kirkus Reviews. Cacioppo, J.T. & Patrick, W. (2008). loneliness. Back cover.)