This morning, my partner and I were discussing the case of the young Asian teenager from Leeds who, at just seventeen years old, appears to have given his life for IS as a suicide bomber in Iraq. My partner asked how such a normal looking British teen could be brainwashed into giving up his life so readily. The conversation naturally ended up discussing subversion and relationships.
The desire to ‘belong’ and be part of a group is very strong within us. We are naturally descended from ancestors who sought protection from being in an extended family group. If we lack a sense of identity and assurance within our environment, it is instinctive to want to find a group of people like ourselves to be with. Whether we are members of a club, sporting team or avidly scan our Facebook page every day for friends updates, we are all checking in with our need to be part of a pseudo-family.
It’s this ‘need to belong’ that causes us to sometimes fall in to unhelpful relationships with partners, friends and co-workers or simply someone who we meet on the internet. In teenagers, the need to belong is exceptionally strong and for those who may also be struggling with confused cultural identities, the desire to belong can have a huge impact. If a person feels that they can’t identify with the people around them, then it’s only natural that they seek out people who want to spend time with them and make them feel valuable as a person. If they become involved in a group who is willing to exploit them, or if they actually fail to become part of a group at all, their perception of normal and acceptable behaviour can become very unhealthy indeed, especially towards anyone who shows antagonism towards those perceptions. Alternatively, they can loose all sense of self worth and self esteem, allowing themselves to be bullied and mistreated. Extreme examples of these can be seen in cult behaviour as well as grooming for terrorism or sexual or financial exploitation.
The truth is that in all relationships, there has to be a healthy balance of give and take. You should never feel obliged to do anything for anyone else that makes you feel uncomfortable and equally, if someone seems just a little too keen to be your best friend or ideal lover, the chances are that the relationship is already experiencing imbalance.
Recreating balance in relationships is key to a happier life. I’ve tried to cover this subject within my new book (currently being set for print by the publisher) but it’s also a major theme for me to ensure that my own life is fulfilling and content. I do think it’s fair to say that a few mental adjustments have made a profound impact on my life. Finding balance was and is critical. I hope you can find your balance too.