We are a tribal species. No man is an island, you've heard. Studies have proven this inherent pull to be a part of something is crucial to our ability to not only survive but thrive.
In a CNN article entitled, "The Importance of Belonging", Amanda Enayati reported on such consequences, "Isolation, loneliness and low social status can harm a person's subjective sense of well-being, as well as his or her intellectual achievement, immune function and health. Research shows that even a single instance of exclusion can undermine well-being, IQ test performance and self-control."
It is clear we were wired to belong. But there are many things that can threaten our sense of belonging. Whether through a choice we made with isolating consequences, difficult life circumstances or harm inflicted by another, we find ourselves lost and alone.
How are we to find our way to a place with receptive and open arms? Storytelling. Social psychologist and Stanford assistant professor Gregory Walton found that placing our traumatic experiences in a narrative "with a beginning, a middle and an end" provides "meaning [that] the negative experience is constrained, and people understand that when bad things happen, it's not just them, they are not alone, and that it's something that passes." Through sharing their experiences, his studies' subjects learned that they are not alone when terrible things occur. It brings awareness that others have also experienced similar things.
By withholding our stories, we choose to live cut off which can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. However, by offering our stories, we can discover an emotional connection to another that fosters a sense of belonging which can lead to healing. We are comforted that we are not alone in our struggles.
Academy award winner Mahershala Ali speaks to the importance of both telling and listening to stories, "When you peel all the layers away, we're all the same. We're all dealing with wanting to be a part of a tribe. We all need to be supported. We all need a presence in our lives." The beloved saint would agree.