Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

‘I Want To Belong, But Not To My Family’

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 16, 2011

Marty, thirty-three, left home when he was seventeen, never to return again. By that I mean that he was angry with his family since he did not share their political or religious values. He decided, during his early adolescence, that as soon as he could “he would get out of here,” he said to himself. Marty went to college, taught English in Japan, worked for UPS, then traveled extensively in South America. Recently, he has “settled” in Los Angeles, working as a high school teacher. Marty complains of a vague sense of “uneasiness”. “I don’t belong anywhere,” he says with complete despair. “I want to belong, but not to my family,” he explains. “I was angry when I left and I am still angry,” Marty continues. “Maybe you were angry because you did not feel that they cherished you and so it is not so much that you left, but rather that you felt like an orphan within your family and so you left because you felt unwanted,” I speculate. “Gee, that is worse than I thought. I am glad I came here today-not,” Marty says, letting me know that I might have given him too much to think about. “It is very painful to feel like an orphan. Maybe it was less painful to see yourself as angry because that way you are in control of the situation,” I say, again speculating about why he feels so disenfranchised from his family. “Yea, I used to be angry, but now I am just uncomfortable,” Marty says, again struggling for words to describe his lonely, disconnected feelings. “It would be nice to find comfort,” I say, implying that his current relationships maybe an opportunity. “Yes, but I have not ever felt comfort, so I can’t imagine feeling it now,” Marty says, with a sad tone. “Well, maybe you can start imagining. Maybe that is the first step,” I say. “Maybe” Marty replies, sounding skeptical.

4 Responses to “‘I Want To Belong, But Not To My Family’”

  1. Shelly said

    Why can’t you ask Marty why he doesn’t want to belong to his family, and why he left home in the first place? To leave home because he didn’t share their political and religious beliefs is too drastic a step for someone so young. Perhaps they didn’t allow him to “live and let live,” i.e. to be at peace with his own political and religious values while they lived with their own? Why must people be right or wrong in their beliefs? A belief is a belief: it is personal and we can’t change how others view the world.

    • I am discovering why Marty does not want to belong to his family. It is process, similar to excavation, as “the old man” would say. Yes, the difference in the political and religious beliefs seems to be a stand-in for intolerance and judgmentalness. Marty did not feel included, so he took the active stance and excluded himself. Thanks.

  2. ashanam said

    I think as an orphan, one may connect to people in a different way than those who have that sense of family or of a home base. That first family that you didn’t belong in is not replaceable sometimes–maybe not ever. And it can take time to feel you belong within yourself, which seems to me like the key to feeling comfortable in the world. It can help to understand there are other orphans out there.

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