The Importance of Belonging

David Pitonyak

Many people who experience disabilities live lives of extreme loneliness and isolation. Many depend almost exclusively on their families for companionship. Some have lost their connections to family, relying on people who are paid to be with them for their social support. Although paid staff can be friendly and supportive, they frequently change jobs or take on new responsibilities. The resulting instability can be devastating to someone who is fundamentally alone…

In my view, most people served by the human services industry are profoundly lonely. Loneliness is the central reason why so many are unhappy and distraught. It is not because our instructional strategies are ill-informed or because our planning processes are inadequate. It is not because our medications are in-potent or because staff are untrained. Their suffering results from isolation. As Willard Gaylin has written, “To be vulnerable is not to be in jeopardy. To be vulnerable and isolated is the matrix of disaster (2).”…

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