My Issue With Social Groups

Recently I have been trying to be more social and active outside work. I know close relationships with other people are vital to one’s mental health, and I’m no exception. I grew up in a very religious family and was never able to examine my beliefs or use critical thinking until I became an adult. I was expected to believe everything that was taught, not to ask questions, and never to deviate at all. For several years as an adult, I have not gone to church, and have thus felt a void where a sense of community, at least, once existed. I recently visited a less strict congregation in a different, much more liberal denomination and also visited its web site. I found that many of the feelings and fears I have when I think back on my time in religious conservatism were brought to the forefront again. The web site listed a lot of causes and organizations, mostly related to social justice, some of which I agree with and some I don’t. And I worry that I’d probably feel just as ostracized, “othered”, and guilty for not “towing the line” if my true feelings were revealed. If I’m invited to volunteer for a certain cause that I don’t agree with, will I be “marked” as a dissident? Suddenly I find myself once again feeling small as a child, insecure, dependent, not allowed to come to my own conclusions, expected to do what I am told, not my own (but a reflection of another). Granted, this might not be the case and there might be a lot more tolerance for other views than I realize. However, when I visited, at the front of the sanctuary were statements beginning with “We believe…” with many of their causes listed. They seem to imply if I don’t fully agree with all of them, then I can’t be part of “we”.

Can anybody else relate with my distrust and concern towards being a part of any social group? That if you don’t agree 100%, you’re looked at as a traitor? Politics seems to have gotten more this way, as well, in the past few decades, with both parties situated towards opposite ends of the spectrum, people choosing their friends based on which candidate they voted for, and just more vitriol, in general.

Even “belonging” to a social group sounds bad — as though they own you. You’re their belonging. I know I’m probably more trigger-sensitive than most people when it comes to this topic because of my past. But can anyone else relate? Or am I viewing this issue illogically or leaving an important point out?

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