Having Tribes: Soulful Medicine

I'm very fortunate, or at least I think so. I grew up in a big Italian-American family with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My maternal grandparents emigrated to New York from Southern Italy in 1912. My grandmother, Rose, the youngest of 8 siblings, left her very large, closely knit family behind. Of course, back in those days, traveling abroad to visit relatives was arduous at best. For my grandmother it took almost 1 week to sail 1 way across the Atlantic Ocean and then back, (a trip she made twice). Even a simple, "hello," to her parents could only be accomplished by what we now call, "snail mail." The strained connection for my grandmother from her country, town, culture, family and friends was painful.

All this to explain why she instilled such a strong sense of family in her own 8 New York born children. My grandmother had essentially lost easy contact with her Italian family of origin. Without family and friends and not speaking English, she compensated somewhat by creating a brand new, tightly knit family in the U.S.A. And while both of my maternal grandparents have passed on more than 30 years ago, this New York family with Italian roots continues to grow, thrive, and love.

"Many first cousins and their spouses through the ages."

What's so great about having a group, tribe, or family? For me, it's the feeling of connection, support, and belonging. It's a sense of identity. Whether born into a wonderful family tribe as I was or not, finding a tribe and making a connection is tremendously important to our good health and overall sense of well-being. And, there's nothing to say you can't be involved in multiple tribes at once. If you're feeling isolated, look around for your connection(s). Plug into tribal options at your school, neighborhood, house of worship, sports team, book club, professional organization, and so on. The most important point is to not isolate. While I believe in independence and completely uphold alone time and doing our own thing, no one should live life as an eternal island.

Just as nutritious foods feed and heal our bodies, healthy tribal connections energize and feed our souls. But, be mindful. The degree of healing of course is related to the quality of both our food and group/people choices. If we eat exclusively processed, fast foods, the body will not thrive and more often than not will gain excess weight. The same thing holds true for our soul or real inner self. If we primarily isolate or hang with a group or even a few individuals who say or do hurtful things to us; if we feel habitually misunderstood or tormented, our inner soul/self will suffer.

Soul recovery occurs with, amongst other things, love, trust, pleasure, and tribes we can count on, feel apart of, and call our own. And, all too frequently, there is a strong link between having a sad soul seeking solace and our eating foods that temporarily comfort, but do not heal deep down. Consequently, authentically changing our body and weight in a long-lasting way can only happen when we really pay attention to and nurture our inner being. Re-gaining our health and genuine body size, contrary to popular belief pushing strict dieting and excessive exercise, begin with a jubilant and supported soul. It is then that we have the best chance of healing, growth, and thriving inside and out. 


Dedicated to my beloved grandmother, Rosina.