Cora Mills, LCSW
Identity and the problem of othering
We all want to feel connected and a sense of belonging. That is true in our families, our peer groups, our communities and our world at large. When we are struggling with a sense of disconnection, we tend to be reactive. That can look like a number of things: withdrawl, retreat, escape, antagonism, attention seeking, passive aggression, among others. The thing is - we all want to know we belong. We all want to feel connected, known and loved. So when we are all different - different ages, races, sizes, socio-economic classes, genders, sexualities, religions, abilities - how we we continue to build identity not only as individuals but as a collective, without othering? Othering is a term I am using to communicate the us vs. them mentality. We have that as a way to create in group belonging and preserve our sense of safety. The answer lies in exploring connections and trying to push back against the us vs. them mentality. Whether this is a political identity, a racial identity, or identity as a stay at home mom - when we focus on our differences, we end up cutting off opportunities to connect. We have shared experiences as humans that supercede political affiliation, gender, race etc. That is not to say that individual identity is not important - it is. But in this super charged 2020 environment, we have a lot more to gain by seeking out our shared human connections. Seeking opportunities of generosity, joy, and vulnerability allows us to come together in ways that better everyone involved.