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How to belong when being hurt?

Recently I attended an international workshop. One of the themes that emerged is how to belong to a family, an organisation, a team, an association, … when you have been hurt by another member violating the ethical code and the leadership doesn’t intervene? What happens to you when the parental figures/leaders don’t show up, when the values that hold the system are under attack?

I think this touches one of the most important existential problems we face as human beings, operating in divers systems at different levels. One of the basic needs in life is the need to belong. It’s being accepted for who you are and being seen and recognized by the other members and the leadership. In order to be able to belong, one has to give up a bit of personal freedom and puts his/her trust in the values that guide and support the system, be it a family or an organisation. The return for giving up that freedom, is that you expect and deserve protection.

When somebody acts in contradiction to these values and willingly harms you, you most likely will no longer trust this person, although you probably will still trust the system. You will however expect that this person will be called to the stand by the leaders as keepers of it’s values. But sometimes, these leaders don’t always take a stand: they’re afraid, there are other interests at stake, they minimise or discount the event, power games are taking place… For sure, they discount their own role as leaders and they don’t show up when they should. That is unethical.

Truth to be told, when they don’t show up , the event becomes “unbearable” . It is likely that it will affect one’s loyalty to the system/organisation/family/team. Most people then disconnect and experience tremendous pain. Some might choose to still remain a part of the system but for sure, they won’t ever trust its leaders again. Others might choose to leave the system. Whatever scenario, the pain will remain.

So how does one cope with this pain? The first thing to do is to acknowledge the hurt and not discount its importance, because it affects your entire life, yourbelief system, your relationship with others, …

A second thing to do -even when you know the leaders won’t change their behaviour – is the decision not to bear this pain alone and to reach out to others. This might be contra intuitive: once mischieved, one probably doesn’t want to take the risk anymore of being exposed to even more hurt and disappointment! And if one can’t expect relief from the very system that hurt you, then what’s the point?

However , other members of the system can stand up and listen with an open, compassionate heart. Being really heard and taken seriously, might be the beginning of relief. When a third apologises lovingly for the fact that this person had to go through this traumatic experience alone and not being taken care of, then a beginning of healing might be initiated.

If you’re alone with this kind of pain, know there is relief and healing. Don’t stop reaching out!


The most valuable thing we can do for others, is to keep our hearts open , be compassionate and speak up!

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