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  • Writer's pictureIngeborg Weser

Separateness is een illusion?

I (sometimes) feel separated from others in situations such as:

  • I sometimes/often feel like an outsider. It makes me feel different from others. I think others find me strange and distance themselves from me.

  • To set boundaries and being assertive are not my strong suits. That's why I adapt, at least then I won't have any problems with others.

  • I find it difficult to think positively about myself, to love myself. I don't think others really like me either.

  • I can get quite angry about certain (groups of) people and how they behave. I would prefer having nothing to do with them. Others think this reaction is exaggerated, I don't understand that, because I'm right.

  • Either you are my friend, or you are my enemy.

  • I do what I want, others don't do anything for me. I'm on my own in that regard.

  • The world is an unsafe place, so I watch for signs of danger and stand ready to fight for my rights.

  • It's one of the biggest emotional struggles people face in their lives: 'I feel separate from other people, I don't belong, I'm different from others and that makes me not welcome.'  Almost everyone knows these feelings: they often only arise in certain situations, such as when I am new to a group of people and the feeling of safety still needs to grow. Or when I know and feel something that others do not understand. For some people, however, the feeling of 'separateness' is greater than that, it is emotionally all-embracing. I then experience the world itself as hostile; as if I don't fit in, as if I was born an outsider, perhaps even not allowed to be there. Separateness exists

We are talking here about the subjective feeling of separateness within myself. I FEEL rejected as opposed to BEING rejected. However, the world is undoubtedly full of 'separateness', full of criticism, blame, discrimination, distrust, hatred, and polarization. People who exclude people. Sometimes it is individuals who are the victims, sometimes entire groups. This can happen anywhere: between countries, ideologies, religions, but also in the neighbourhood, at school, at work, in friendships, in love relationships...

And of course, it also happens at home: in families. Children also often do not enough feel seen, wanted, and loved : as if their way of BEING is not affirmed, not accepted, or even rejected. For example, they feel too demanding, too angry, too loud, too needy, too dominant, too beautiful, too smart, too quiet, too boring, too unassertive, too little visible, too ugly, too stupid, or simply 'different'. In short: 'not good enough' in the eyes of others (initially mother and father and others who have parenting tasks, later also peer groups). In that case the feeling of 'belonging' can come under pressure. At least that's how it is perceived.

The 'perpetrators', the ones who seem to be responsible for this experience of rejection, are (usually) not bad people. They do their best, but - often due to their own negative experiences in their lives - cannot meet the child's deep need to receive a positive response to the expressions of its 'Being' well enough. A drama for all involved, including for the parents, because this deteriorates the quality of the relationship with the child. As the child experiences a lot of negativities, its sense of self-esteem, but also its trust in other people will be negatively affected. The psychological consequences for the child: depending on the severity of the experiences, all degrees occur: mild insecurity about oneself and one's position in groups or in society to terrible emotional pain that can express itself in psychopathological fears, depression and even (self-) destructive behaviour and crime.

The consequences of experiencing separateness

If I experience myself as 'I don't belong' or as a person who is rejected as a human being, this means existential fear and stress, because every person needs the feeling to feel safe and to naturally be part of 'the group' (of family and relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates at school, the place and country where you live and even humankind itself...) The feeling of 'I am wrong' in the eyes of others triggers protective reactions: some people react with thinking negatively about themselves: 'See, I AM wrong, I'm really not good enough'. I then seek refuge in withdrawal, barely showing myself, adapting to the (so-called) wishes of others. I then choose to hide, neglect, or even condemn the real person within myself.

For others the experience of separateness brings about a negative self-image as well but focused on 'the perpetrator': 'The others are wrong, they cannot be trusted, they are dangerous, perhaps even my enemies.' I then protect myself by making myself hard and invincible. This behaviour occurs in many degrees: from overly independent behaviour, avoiding showing vulnerability, distrust, doing everything alone and not accepting help, to being egocentric and selfish, and exhibiting socially negative, perhaps even criminal behaviour, etc.

These behavioural patterns run deep. They arise early in life, sometimes from conception. First rudimentary, then increasingly clear, and behavioural. In fact, everyone is affected by it in one way or another. If I have been lucky, positive experiences in my life can make up for a lot and soften the patterns. Sometimes though, it is not possible to counteract the suffering that is deeply engraved in my body and mind. Then help from professionals is strongly recommended. 

Towards a life of connectedness

A successful change process from separateness to connection, must touch the following elements in my soul:

  • I become aware of the triggers that make me feel separate: e.g. 'When I am new in a group of people, I become quiet and feel tense. I'll wait and see just to be sure.'

  • I explore how I respond internally and externally to the feeling of separateness: e.g. 'I respond with withdrawal because I am afraid that I do not fit in here and will not be accepted as I am.'

  • I learn to distinguish between experiences of separateness here and now and from experiences of separateness in other contexts, such as in childhood or suffering from other painful experiences: e.g. 'The way I lived emotionally in my family of origin did not seem to fit, I felt alone in that regard. That was then. Now when I come into a group, the fear of this loneliness surfaces again. Then I choose to adapt and not show myself. So, I react as if the situation here and now is the same as then.'

  • I explore the deeper feelings that were at play at the time: i.e. I open myself to the experiences and feelings of when I once felt separate: e.g. 'The child in me felt alone and left out. However, what I really needed was to feel the connection with my mother, father, and siblings. That I just belong.'

  • I find a way to express those feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear, anger, etc.: 'If I imagine myself as a child then, I feel unsafe, anxious, and very vulnerable. I can feel that in my body now. My body is shaking with fear, and I want to cry.'

  • I explore the needs that come with it: to be seen and accepted as I am: e.g. 'I need you, even though I am different from you. Let me know and feel that you accept me the way I am.'

  • I translate these needs into the here and now: 'I am good enough the way I am', it is okay to be vulnerable and needy, to express oneself, to say 'no', to be strong, to be better than others or to be allowed to fail, to be an emotional person or a 'doer', etc. 'I reconnect with my deepest self'.

  • I find ways to see myself as connected to other people and the world. 

Separateness is an illusion

When the experience of separation has been processed, emotionally belongs to the past and no longer affects how I see myself and others, then I am truly free. Then I no longer must experience and behave as different from others, i.e. as separate. Then I can be different AND connected. If I end up in a situation where people marginalize, disrespectfully criticize, and even reject me, I can perceive that without this experience negatively affecting the way I see and feel about myself. I remain understanding and loving towards myself. The negative power of others is broken forever. It also gives me the space to see possibilities, express my feelings, set boundaries, take measures to protect myself, and seek contact with people who appreciate me. This attitude can go so far that it is even possible that my warmth and understanding also extends to the 'perpetrator'. That is the ultimate freedom.

If separateness is an illusion, then I look at myself and others from a higher level: I connect myself with my own humanity and with the humanity of other people. I connect with what deeply binds us without closing my eyes to the pain we cause each other when we undermine the connection that is deep within us so self-evident.

You and me

So different

And yet


Supported by the rules

Of life,


And yet there is pain:

The pain

Of your separation from me the separation

and my separation from you.

The pain is immeasurable.


Open your eyes,

See the opportunities,

Leave the past where it belongs.

Become a bridge builder.

Dare it.


And hands

Reach out

To you,

Soft and vulnerable.

As never before,

So strong.

For you

And for me:



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