The world can be a cold and lonely place if you feel that nobody cares about you. The need for love and belonging is one of five basic needs identified by Dr. Wm. Glasser, the originator of Reality Therapy. It’s a powerful need, indeed.
It’s not necessarily easy to recognize when love and belonging is missing in your life. Take Sarah, for example. She is struggling though school while raising her young daughter. She’s frustrated because she feels that she gets no help from her classmates. As she tells me, “They stick together in their little groups. Nobody will help me. Everybody, even the teachers, is waiting for me to fail.”
So is it help that Sarah needs? Or is it a feeling of belonging? To become clear on exactly what Sarah is missing, I ask, “What would it be like if you were getting the help you need?
It’s easy for Sarah to picture what she’d like. “People would say ‘hi,’ talk to me, ask about my weekend. They’d ask me if I want to work with them. I’m spending hours alone at home doing work that I could do in half the time with a little help.”
What’s happening now? “They don’t even look at me when I come in the room. They think I’m stupid, I know they do.”
Sarah doesn’t have the feeling of being a valued part of this group. How is she handling that? “Well, I don’t look at them either. I sit by myself. Then I leave school as soon as I can to do my work at home.”
I ask Sarah, “What do you see as your options?”
“I don’t have any. I can’t stay late because of my daughter. It wouldn’t do any good anyway because nobody would help me.”
Has Sarah ever been invited to work with anyone? She thinks back and remembers, “Well, sort of. When we started, this one girl, Julie, asked if I wanted to work together after school. But I can’t because I have to pick up my daughter. Julie doesn’t have the responsibilities that I have.”
Does Sarah see any possible options now? “I guess I could ask Julie if there’s another time she’d work with me. I could come in early; that’d be no problem. She probably wouldn’t do that, though.”
How will you know? Sarah smiles, “Well, I guess I’ll have to ask.”
One last question for Sarah, “By the way, if you don’t look at anyone, how do you know they are not looking at you?”
Sarah sighs and says with a grin, “Oh, OK. I guess I could smile.”
As Sarah changes her own behaviour, she may find a positive change in her colleagues’ reactions. Do you think this will work for her?