When safety needs are met, people tend to graduate to issues of belonging. Belonging has a great deal to do with identity and how people understand themselves in terms of their memberships in important groups. It pleases many people to be a part of an ethnic or cultural group, for instance. People might also derive a great sense of identity from being a part of religious or work communities, or from being a fan of a local and beloved sports team.
Belonging also has to do with relationships at a person to person, and family level. Everyone has family, for example, although not everyone experiences their family members as supportive or comforting. Similarly, many people struggle to form friendships and relationships with like-minded others with whom they can variously hang out, share life experiences, have sex, fall in love, or start a family. People who do not have "enough" such relationships, or who are in relationships that don't meet their needs feel the pain of loneliness and isolation.
Identity, relationship and feelings of loneliness are important. We devote two entire chapters below to addressing, in some detail, problems with identity and with relationship. The message we want to convey at this moment, however, is that it is important for you to make the most of your existing relationships and memberships. Apart from your health, your relationships and your emotional identifications (to groups who help you to know who you are and what you believe in) are your greatest wealth. They can be a great source of energy, inspiration, strength, comfort and fun. They make your life more meaningful, and they provide direction. Whatever sort of life problem you wish to work on, it will be easier for you to do so after drawing upon the supportive base provided by your existing family, friends or memberships.
You should reach out to the people you care about. Most people find it helpful to talk to people close to them whom they trust to support them with what they’re working on. Your social connections to other people you care about (your "social support system") can become an important part of the 'reality testing' that helps you keep your issues in perspective and stay on track in addressing them. Ask for support and encouragement from friends and family members and you’re likely to receive it, just as you would probably help them if they were engaged in a similar self-help effort. Most people like to help their friends and family so long as their requests for help are reasonable.
Similarly, you can derive strength and comfort from various family, cultural, group and religious memberships. Many people find prayer to be a rejuvenating and profound process that provides comfort and courage. Participating in cultural events and particularly, eating well-loved ethnic foods is comforting and grounding at the same time.
It is easy to take what you have in the way of supportive relationships and identifications for granted, but it is a major mistake to do so. Relationships are living fragile things that require maintenance (attention and reciprocity) to thrive. If you don't feed and nurture your relationships and similarly, your memberships, they will ultimately weaken and grow distant from you, leaving you without the support you counted upon. Even as you are focused on obtaining what you don't currently have (the problem you want to solve), take some time out to pay attention to and treasure what you already do have. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Be there for them when they need help. This is the best way to insure that when you need them, they will be there for you.