Belonging: From a Rebel's Perspective

This time of year, almost always around the holidays, a theme emerges in my individual therapy sessions with clients, as well as in my own personal life.

A sense of not belonging.


Like many others, I resonate with the archetype of the Outcast, the Orphan Child, the one on the outside looking in.  Don't see it? Take a walk in my shoes for a moment.

Raised in the LDS church, an identical twin, competitive athlete and piano performer, a white fairly attractive woman who was raised in wealth and stability, college educated. I ultimately came from the epitome of “white picket fence” culture and for the first 25 years of my life, I complied and played the role quite well, with the exception of bouts of rebellion, just to fall “back in line” again.

Now, at the age of 33, I'm a rebel in almost every sense of the word—a renegade, a trail blazer, a boundary pusher...and stubborn as hell.  I build to break down, and my cross to bare is constant death and rebirth, learning that attachment and safety is an illusion.

Whether you have committed a crime, come from another country, possess different abilities, characteristics or orientations, or even because you are poor, sick or injured—you may find yourself identifying with the archetype of the outcast: an orphan, black sheep, rebel, outsider, dissident, scapegoat, weirdo, homeless, beggar, misfit.  By whatever name, the outcast plays an important role in understanding our personal shadow, blind spots, and areas to evolve as we heal these wounds.

In every family, and in many folk tales, there is a designated black sheep.  This outsider carries the shadow projection for the whole group. In their collective rejection of him or her, the black sheep is a uniting force.

In other words, they become the carrier of the rejected, undiscovered and forgotten pieces of the family story and by living life in their own way, the black sheep is often responsible for bringing the family to consciousness.

But, as heroic as this may sound, it is a lonely and difficult path.  Whether by abandonment or choice, being estranged from or without a family puts un-belonging at the foundation of our lives.  A feeling of homelessness can live like a persistent condition in the psyche, coloring everything we do.

If you identify with the archetype of the Orphan or Outcast, you may notice there is often a quest or journey put before you which you must undertake to find your true place in the world.  But in order to do so, you must leave home, or your place of “safety,” break free from your established group or family, to endure a long period of exile and challenges.

During this time of wandering, you may feel like giving up....but if you summon the virtue to hold on to your own values, universal allies will show up to assist you.  In the end, your triumph is a place of belonging in the world that not only has been won by your own hard work, but is now large enough to shelter others as well.

Onward, fellow wanderers!