As I'm working through Dr. Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" workshop I am reminded how Dr. Brown's research shows that all humans are wired for connection. We all have a deep-seated need to feel love and belonging. Except perhaps psychopaths who feel neither shame nor vulnerability.

The word 'belonging' in Type language is associated with the Stabilizer™ Temperament. In 450 BC, Hippocrates called it "Melancholic", later on Spränger called it "Economic", Keirsey called it "Guardian", and if you're familiar with your MBTI® result, it maps onto Sensing and Judging preferences (SJ). Temperament theory has been around for millennia, before Jung's Type theory, and it's a holistic view of a person's behavior and motivators.

Membership or Belonging, as well as Responsibility or duty, are deep psychological needs for Stabilizers. They try to meet these needs by respecting and upholding traditions and rituals. They tend to first look to the past to learn how things used to be done, or if they have personal experience of something, before making up their minds. They often value rules and may strive to uphold societal structures by keeping their families or larger systems secure. I have a friend who loves planning and making lists, doing plenty of research before a new endeavor, and she's happy to observe and ask trusted experts about their experiences when she's trying something for the first time.

Although I'm quite prepared to believe every human being (except those who lack the ability) wants to be connected - emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually - I wonder if the majority of Dr. Brown's research subjects had Stabilizer temperaments. Or perhaps women in our generations were still raised with a focus on duty and responsibility to the family. Or maybe the need to belong is a sign of extraverted Feeling. Making yourself smaller, perhaps, so as to not offend anyone. Which of course takes us back to the difference between belonging and fitting in. Maintaining harmony may be too big a price to pay if your self-worth is on the line.

I don't know if the elephant is a good symbol to represent belonging, but from what I know, their survival is dependent on the group, they live for a long time, and they also keep up traditions. Plus I saw this picture and thought how marvelous to remember that these majestic creatures also start out small, and vulnerable.

*African elephants are now listed as Vulnerable. They wander in non-territorial herds that can reach 200 elephants, even one thousand during the rains. Their society is based on a social matriarchal community. The matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of 9 to 11 elephants. Only closely related females and their offspring are part of this herd because males wander alone once they reach maturity. The herd’s well being depends on the guidance of the matriarch. She determines when they eat, rest, bathe or drink. Females in the herd practice motherhood by being allomothers to the calves. These assistants play with and babysit babies and retrieve them if they stray too far. 


Image by Fred Ericsson, Flickr, Creative Commons License