I recently read, well actually listened to, a book called TRIBE: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. What sparked my curiosity about this particular book (and ultimately what led me to this site) was a dream I had that I shared with my therapist. The gist of the dream, without getting into too much detail, was a bunch of snippets of me dancing. As a child with my grandpa, with a friend acting like silly girls, lusty club dancing, formal ballroom style dancing, and ending with a bazaar tribal type of dance. Like a straight out of a primitive era in Africa type of tribal dance. Somewhere I would not normally fit because, well, I’m really white, uncultured, and know almost nothing about tribal life. We talked about how each scene might represent a different stage in life. But after I shared the last part, my therapist’s only response was to utter the one word, “tribe,” and he sort of stared off in space for a minute, thinking I guess.
But it also made me think because that last part of the dream had been so strange to me that I hadn’t wanted to think much about it until then. All of the other dancing in the dream had been fun and centered on me and one other person. But this last one I hadn’t even been the center of, just part of an entire group. And it had been fun, but in a much more profound and, dare I say, meaningful way. Hmm.
Now let me say that normally I think most dreams are just dreams and I don’t need to find meaning in them. But this dream was in the same time frame as a couple other dreams that were even more vivid, and frankly, more disturbing than this one. One of them I had already discussed at length because it was quite obviously allegorical to what was going on in my therapy group. I was seriously reacting to the dynamic of the group in ways I didn’t understand and I guess my subconscious was working overtime.
The book I mentioned described a tribe (not quoting but paraphrasing from memory) as the group you would work to both feed and protect. The book discusses the struggle of soldiers who have found a “tribe” in their unit but not in the civilian life. It also explains that there seems to be a relationship between affluence and depression. It seems counter-intuitive that as our lives are easier we become more depressed. But it also makes so much sense to me.
I can’t help but parallel the dystopian fantasy worlds of the books where I love to escape. In every one, the characters endure unspeakable horrors. And yet, I find myself wishing time after time that I could trade places with them and experience their world the way they do. I know that’s naive, and crazy. The grass is always greener, right? But my life feels so aimless and pointless and these characters act with purpose in the face of dire consequences and severe punishments. I suppose I accepted a long time ago that we all suffer in life. As people who suffer from anxiety and depression, we are well acquainted with suffering. So I may be crazy, but I’ll take intentional suffering over empty wandering.
I’m thinking that this is what makes social anxiety (or depression, or really probably just about any mood disorder) so crippling. It is isolating. And isolation robs our lives of meaning. And without meaning, our suffering becomes unbearable. But mostly I’m thinking about how nice it would be to feel like I belong somewhere and how terrifying it truly is to try to belong somewhere when you don’t quite fit.