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Gisela McKay

President and Co-Founder, pixcode

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The pain of ostracism vs the right to walk away

It might be helpful to read this first:
http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110510WilliamsOstracism.html

I am interested in resiliency, and in this specific context what makes one person who is "shut out" of a group or even turned away from a single person become angry or despondent, vs another person who simply seeks out their niche and makes alternate connections.

Clearly, not everyone who fails to achieve the attention/affection of their chosen group or person becomes an extremist. Neither do they become despondent.

So why would two or three minutes of being ignored (and I don't mean by salespeople where the irritation is purely logical as they are being paid to give service) have long-term effects on some?

And what does this mean for our right to choose who we do or do not want to spend time with?

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    Nov 12 2011: Well said. If we are considering complete strangers and mild acquaintances, with age being constant, then a character-flaw of some sort would be the thing I see a diffrent in a person who is able to move along after kept out a group. It seems to me age of said "victim" would play a key role as well.
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    Nov 12 2011: I can only say, the overwhelming pressure emotionally and socially to fit within the classical framework of your family has a tremendous and almost certain negative downside if a person feels they are the cause of break-up within, their family. i.e, father,mother,son,daughter., mother and father get divorced both kids choose to live with mother
    say for example a father pointed to by all other menbers he is the reason thier family is falling apart. All things and actions being equal between all people involved, if the father holds onto one or two past events he percieves to be worse than anyone elses, he will at all costs try to correct things, whether to his detriment, knowing the only thing that will cure his pain of guilt is approval from all no matter the time it takes.
    Obviously this is from a personal point of view, but probably very common to varying degrees today. All I can say is for me, living in peace and harmony, mentally and emotionally, alone is healthier than the alternative. It seems some people hardly miss a beat after a divorce, others, not so much. Perhaps ego plays into this, or religous views,that compound the innability to make alternate connections.
    I don't know if this tilts the scales one way or the other, relevant to your question, but now respect for self is the highest personal order I follow.Peace.
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      Nov 12 2011: Divorce is rated as being as stressful as a death, even for the party initiating the process, it seems. I don't know that this much deeper and more obvious investment of time and energy can be compared with what happens between strangers or mild acquaintances.

      That is a rejection where it is perfectly understandable that the depth of trauma is profound. On top of that, it is a situation where the person had accepted you at first, then changed their mind/outlook/whatever.
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    Oct 26 2011: Gisela, it’s a good question and if you are implying that the article takes a narrow view, I agree with you.

    I think people put pressure on themselves by not considering themselves a human being and member of the community of living species. We do not need to belong to the millions of subgroups.

    When I feel ostracized, I turn to my writer friends: Plato, Emerson, Chekhov, Nozick, Lincoln, Madison; it’s a long list. Pretty soon, another person who is a fan turns up.

    An adult who appreciates the other party grants them the right to disengage for their reasons-- without explanation or excuse. Often, you learn that something bad had happened to them and they rejected you as their consequence—it had nothing to do with you. Things just happen. Often, they rejoin as you both change. I like to say, “The future will take care of it.” So, like you said, adults do not need to depend on other adults for affirmation.
    Violence and hostility are learned behaviors that will surface no matter what. Psychologist H. A. Overstreet, in his book, The Mature Mind (1949), wrote, “the human being is born ignorant . . . irresponsible . . . inarticulate . . . a creature of diffuse sexuality . . . self-centered . . . to a world of isolated particulars,” then discussed what it takes to grow to psychological maturity and what happens if not.
    I think your question addresses the “isolated particulars,” including encounters with psychologically immature people, especially youths.

    It seems to me we must break off with empathy, even if we must be intolerant—for example, say plainly, “I cannot stay around your second-hand smoke.”

    Phil
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      Oct 27 2011: The article has this weird tone of "if you ignore someone, they will go shoot up their workplace" or something. Which of course would be your fault for not validating them.

      What responsibility do people have to learn how to interact with people so that they are not continually being rejected and feeling ostracized?
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        Oct 27 2011: I agree with you. I think the professor is adding to the problem. That's why I wrote, "Violence and hostility are learned behaviors that will surface no matter what."

        It’s similar to the Dalai Lama holding a prayer service, with about a thousand monks attending, to commemorate 9 immolations last year. How many monks will want to “earn” a future prayer service?

        I think you should keep being intolerant when folks have not earned your respect.

        My memorable lesson came when a bum urinated in a park in New Orleans. I watched with curiosity. The resident sitting next to me yelled, “You pervert! Get out of my park!” The bum ran away. I felt chagrin for my tolerance. That day, I decided that if intolerance is required, I want to be intolerant.
  • Oct 26 2011: Gisela I totally agree with you. And I think that rejection is always mutual... like anything else
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    Oct 26 2011: Gisela,
    It's a difficult question you ask.

    To be rejected or ignored is painful.
    It just happens with some people.

    To explain all reasons doesn't bring much, it is better to accept and find a way to live a pleasant life.
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      Oct 26 2011: I agree with you, Frans, though even the idea of accepting seems a little less than resilient.

      Sometimes I find that "rejection" is in the eye of the beholder.

      For instance, I have had to turn off any and all instant messaging tools because there are points where I have gotten busy with something else and have not been paying attention to the window, and then come back later to find that someone has taken great offense to what they perceived as my ignoring them. (Usually people who are newly online and don't really understand that just because someone shows up as being online doesn't mean they are actually at hand.)

      In other words, no rejection has actually taken place and yet they have undergone a great deal of mental anguish for no really good reason. (There are other examples, but this I find to be most illustrative.)

      And then, why are some people so quick to invest emotional import in others' opinions? If you don't know me (on a personal level or even my reputation), why would what I think matter to you enough that my being busy with something else cause pain? It seems like a painful way to go through life.
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        Oct 27 2011: Those you describe Gisela are problems of the new era.
        People need to learn how to integrate new devices for communication in a satisfactory way.

        There are many levels of contact and being together without noticing each other is the lowest.
        It is a choice and I choose to be not online because I don't like to be disturbed by someone coming in while I'm busy. I think it necessary to give attention in being together which requires that I take all time and focus. Chatting is not my thing.

        I recall a remarkable story I heard on the radio yesterday. It was about making real contact. The author of a book about people with dementia, spent a lot of time with those people to make contact. They’re telling nonsense and are endlessly repeating words. But they felt it if they were taken seriously. And if he stepped into their world they became responsive and started to tell stories and express themselves in ways they otherwise never did or could. It was liberating for them as well as it was for himself. (Where there is real contact you meet yourself in the other.)

        Those that are offended because you have no time for a moment better occupy themselves with something else. As for people they are very different in what they want or expect, what they are after or need to get rid of. If it matters to you how someone feels it is better to warn them that you are busy in the meantime.
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          Oct 27 2011: I am fascinated by the way that people can create an entire narrative (drama) in their heads that has nothing to do with the actual reality. I don't know that it really is a modern ailment. Perhaps there are just more channels for people to feel ignored now.

          In cases of overt bullying (mobbing, defined ostracism), yeah, that's happening to someone. But if someone doesn't want to spend time with you because all you do is complain about your life, that should be their right.

          We seem to be expanding the boundaries of what constitutes "abusive" behaviour.
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          Nov 2 2011: Gisela, it does not seem to relate to responsibility for violence, but I like Frans’ line of thought, too. We received a phone call last evening that pertains.

          We are friends with a couple in a distant town. About three years ago, while she was in medical treatment, communications stopped. After about five unanswered messages, I used White Pages to call three brothers, reaching one. My friend had been transferred to the West Coast and commuted back home. The brother gave me her phone number. I called her, but no response. My wife and I gave up, perplexed and sad.

          A few weeks ago, we received an invitation to her daughter’s wedding in a distant city. We returned the RSVP stating we would attend. I made reservations in a nearby resort town.

          Last evening, she called to say we have a room at the wedding-party hotel and are invited to the rehearsal dinner. Our friends can’t wait to catch up nor can we.

          Things happen, but empathy prevails.

          Phil
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      Nov 12 2011: Phil, I am glad that you tried to keep in touch with her during her medical troubles - so often it is that the people who are undergoing an illness get abandoned by people who simply do not know what to say to them. Maybe, though, it was the reverse, or maybe she was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. (This is all just speculation.)

      I have friends that I don't see or speak to for months, but when we catch up it is like no time at all has passed. I think it is because we don't assume that it is out of malice or rejection - which would neither be the reality nor would it be helpful to either party's mental health.
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    Oct 24 2011: I understand that Oprah said the most important thing she learned was that people just want to be heard. I've thought more important than wanting to be heard is wanting to belong. After reading the article you suggested, it appears true.

    I have certainly felt this pain. And at times, the pain winds its way into my consciousness. As I've gotten older, I've learned to recognize the unwanted feelings for what they are: unwanted. With recognition comes scrutiny comes healing. At least for me.

    Our right to choose with whom we spend time? We might be kinder and gentler in our rebuffs but we still have the right.
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    Oct 23 2011: Such an excellent question and topic Gisela! I am working at the moment, and cannot respond. However, I look forward to following, and participating in, this discussion.