Whanaungatanga. 1. (noun) relationship, kinship, sense of family connection - a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging. It develops as a result of kinship rights and obligations, which also serve to strengthen each member of the kin group. (Maori dictionary)
I recently attended some training related to horses. One of the questions asked was, how do horses show care or concern to each other. The answer was “standing together, eating together, just being together”.
A wise horse advocate once said, “A horse will be OK leaving the herd alone, to attend shows or go out riding etc; when they know that they are coming back to their herd, and they feel that it is a stable place to be.”
Whakawhanaungatanga has also been called “connectedness”. Connection to our whanau, iwi, hapu or our family and the important people around us. If this connectedness was broken, severed or damaged through trauma, abuse or other suffering, our sense of belonging can be non-existent or distorted.
One of the aims of counselling, therapy or other similar types of support, is to assist this search belonging or re-connectedness. Equine assisted therapy can also help with this.
We all need a secure herd to embed in, return to; to ground us and foster our inner strength, and enable us to lean into our suffering and bear the weights of life whatever they are for us.