I recently attended a couple short overview education events on a treatment form called “Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy,” which I will have to discus more fully in a future post. A foundational element of this treatment, though, has been on my mind lately. That foundational element is the fact, or idea, that as humans we are tribal in nature. Being a part of, and accepted into, a tribe is the reason that humans survived in the midst of dangers around us while being rather naturally ill-equipped for such survival. In our past, to banish someone from the tribe or from civilization was a death sentence. We could not survive individually.
I have been thinking about this idea in the context of various mental health issues. As a mental health professional, it is very clear that isolation and mental health issues go hand-in-hand. The client who is depressed often reports little social connectedness; the client with anxiety finds it difficult to connect to others and so often lacks social connection; eating disorders thrive on isolation. These are only a few mental health issues where the lack of a “tribe” is apparent. Does this disconnection from others, from a “tribe,” occur before or after the mental health issue? We may not ever know for certain, but it is definitely present. Somewhere along the way, many individuals struggling with mental wellness lost their “tribe.” They are, or at least feel, alone. Hundreds of years ago this would have been a death sentence. Sometimes it is still a death sentence today, and even when it is not a physical death, it is often an emotional death. It is the death of happiness.
I know that mental health providers talk about support systems. We mention the importance of connecting with others. Do we give it enough attention though? Do we place enough emphasis on finding, forming, and maintaining a “tribe?” I’m not sure that we do.
I leave you with this task: identify your tribe. Take some time to record the people in your life. Those who are near to you, those who are dear to you, those you could reach out to if you needed. Here’s a quick overview of my tribe. I’m sure I left people out, and if it’s you I left out, I apologize. All of society is part of my tribe. My extended family. The Universe itself. My friends. Even my pets. I know that I am not alone and I am so thankful for my tribe.