Are You a Stranger in a Strange Place?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

What is it about this scene from Fiddler on the Roof that’s so heartbreaking?  The families are being forced to leave their home village of Anatevka.  They say themselves, it’s nothing special.  “It’s just a place,” says Golda.  If you’re familiar with the story, you know that there are tensions and hard feelings between some of the residents of the village, and some of the characters are just downright irritating.  But in those last few minutes in their home, they cling to each other.

As we’ve talked about your path to self actualization, we’ve highlighted some of the qualities that make you unique – your talents, personality and your relationships.  But you are also human, sharing the same core features as all other humans, and humans are not solitary beings.  If you took the quiz yesterday, you may have realized that you struggle in this area, so let’s talk about some basic principles that will help you function as part of a community.

  • Humans have an innate need to belong. If you know someone who rejects human companionship by word or action, this isn’t a case of one more personality type.  Almost always, this self-imposed isolation is evidence that something has gone wrong.  Maybe the person has been hurt too badly to trust, or is depressed.  Maybe it’s a case of mental illness.  In any of these cases, the only appropriate response is compassion.  You don’t have to enjoy anti-social behaviors, and you certainly should protect your own interests.  But reacting with judgment or negativity will only add to the damage, and you, as a card-holding member of the human race, have no right to damage others.
  • Humans are reluctant to end relationships. We find security in ongoing relationships, and insecurity in ending them, even when we know that they are damaging or unhealthy.  If you know you need to end a relationship, your feeling of resistance is instinctive, and isn’t necessarily an indication that ending it is the wrong choice.
  • Humans need both social contacts and solitude. If you can’t function when you’re by yourself, this is as unhealthy as being unable to function in a social group.  Find a balance between the two.
  • Most people who are in healthy, enduring relationships live longer and are healthier and happier than those who are alone.
  • Like attracts like. There’s no evidence that opposites attract.  People are drawn to those that are similar to themselves.  This is why we have established social rituals and a standard of good manners.  If the idea of “putting your best foot forward” feels dishonest to you (like you’re pretending to be someone you’re not), this might help explain. Two humans initially form a bond over qualities that they have in common, so they instinctively search for those similarities.  Only after the bond is formed do they begin to reveal their more “weird” features.  The origins of racism may go back to this human trait.  The solution to overcoming racism lies in finding the common, human ground between groups of people who may appear at first to be widely different.
  • Friendships are built through frequent exposure. If you’re the “ship who passes through the night” type, you may be cheating yourself out of the fundamental connection that comes from being in a community of people.

The people in your “community,” whether it’s an actual town or neighborhood, a workplace, a church, or some other group or combination of groups, will not be perfect.  But through repeated exposure, you’ll come to know them, and, to varying degrees, care about them and rely on them.   There’s comfort in it, even as you may struggle to maintain the balance between that community connection and your privacy and boundaries.  Cherish your community for what it is – a loose but necessary association of flawed humans – and you’ll find that self actualization is closer than it ever was before.

Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live. To learn more, visit

About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit>.

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