Disgust and our sense of Belonging

For over a year I have been working on what the emotion ‘disgust’ means in my life. I figured out a
while back that this was an under-regulated emotion for me and I knew it tied into my trauma and
sense of self.

I often talk about the 2 faces of disgust. The first face is pretty easy to integrate into your awareness.
It is the more primal, biological disgust that we all tend to view as a reaction to something vulgar,
revolting or related to illness. The second face is far more complex and although I have worked out
the way to regulate this emotion in parenting (teaching tolerance, empathy and compassion), I am
still unravelling layers to how this core emotion benefits us.

Disgust is all about our perceptions, values and the views we hold about ourselves, others and the
world. That much became clear to me. It didn’t quite make complete sense though, I needed to
unpack it more. As I have been on my own healing journey, it dawned on me. Disgust, at its
fundamental core, it about our sense of belonging. So often belonging and the emotion ‘shame’ are
paired and I didn’t make the connection. We all strive to belong. This is a basic need I believe and
one that fuels our identity and sense of self. Our primary attachment relationships (parental
relationships) are where we gain this sense belonging within ourselves and this happens within our
first 5 or 6 years of life. Our sense of belonging therefore depends on how our parents or
attachment figures were able to regulate the core emotion disgust for us.

For me, I have come to learn that my family had a few skeletons to hide. I was able to piece many
puzzle pieces together and understand my own family values and intergenerational trauma better.
My family were materialistic and valued wealth and status. This was something that rippled through
the generations. I learnt that my mother didn’t marry the man she loved because my grandfather
disapproved of his job. I saw my own mother rebel against this and talk negatively about affluent
people. I was given completely conflicting messages throughout my childhood. Partly from my
mother’s own oscillation between her own upbringing and her rebellion against it, partly from my
grandmother who also raised me. I was taught to be a good girl but I was also taught that affluent
people were pretentious and not trustworthy. It wreaked havoc with my identity and sense of
belonging. I never felt I truly belonged in any group, with any class (I grew up quite poor too) or even
within my own family. I learned how to wear a mask to gain love.

Over the years this eroded my self-esteem and I have continuously been seeking out places and
people that give me that sense of belonging. I struggle with boundaries and with speaking my truth. I
fear abandonment and rejection above all else. I compare myself to others regularly and never really
feel stable. This is under regulated disgust. The healing journey is one of finding myself, accepting
myself and finding stability and belonging within myself.

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