” I Feel Like I Don’t Fit in Anywhere ” : A Problem of Soul
“I feel like i don’t fit in anywhere”: it’s the kind of thing we’ve all said to ourselves at various transition points in our lives. At certain key times, it can seem like a true cry from the heart.
We can feel like we’re completely at odds with our environment, and in particular, our social environment. Like no one comprehends us, or “gets” us. Like we have very little in common with others in our environment. This can be true of a work environment, in social settings that may once have felt very comfortable to us, and now do not, and, at it’s most extreme, may even be how we end up feeling with members of our family of origin, or even our own chosen “conjugal” families.
What is This “Not Fitting In”?
What’s actually happening when we tell ourselves, “I don’t fit in”? Is there some characteristic or characteristics that we feel make us stand out from the group? Perhaps a physical characteristic? Is it a question of shyness or social anxiety?
It could be any of these, just as it could be that we have a very self-critical approach to ourselves, a “messenger” who is always telling us that we aren’t doing as well or being as worthwhile as other people.
This is one side of not fitting in. These may be extremely important issues for each of us to look at, and perhaps to revise our underestimation of ourselves, or to increase our sense of self-compassion and work on reducing our over-critical self attack!
Other issues may strongly contribute to a sense of not fitting: race; ethnicity; and sexual identity are three powerful factors.
Yet, there are other aspects of “I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere” that can be extremely important for us to come to terms with, even though they might have little to do with the things we’ve described above.
How Can Not Fitting In Be A Problem of Soul?
Sometimes this issue of “not fitting in” can be what some /a-midlife-transitions refer to as a “problem of soul”. As Prof. Andrew Samuels tells us they can use the term soul to refer to what is truly and unavoidably unique about our most basic identity as individual people. To realize that “I’m really, truly not like other people” in some important respects can be a profound awareness. It may lead to different kinds of feelings: sometimes awe, sometimes confusion, and in some cases, possibly feelings of grave uneasiness.
For some people, this realization that “I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere” can be a realization of a deep truth. It may lead to a sense of condemnation, which is very sad. More often, hopefully, if individuals are willing to work with their feelings, and seek to better understand themselves, it can lead to a sense of awe at our human uniqueness, and a passionate desire to live out our own soul nature… to see where this experiment of the universe that is my life may lead.
The question that governs a life may change from “where can I fit in?” to “Where is it that I truly belong?”
Not Fitting and Soul-Making
The psychologist James Hillman, would no doubt tell us that this is all part of the intense human drama of soul-making. Jungians would tell us that the part of soul known as animus bids us to make discernments and discriminate between things in our lives, while the part of soul known as anima moves us to reconcile people and and things, and to unite. Seeing ourselves, seeing our own uniqueness, and how we differ from the background of the world, is a key part of soul-making; so is reconciling and uniting with the people and things in our lives that accept us, and aid us in being more uniquely and fundamentally who we are.
The life goals of first seeing, then accepting, and finally more fully becoming the unique self that each of us, is a vital part of the unfolding reality of /a-midlife-transition.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst