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The Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying

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posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 09:56 AM
Ostracized! Rejected! Mocked, ignored, made the butt of jokes. It's excruciatingly painful.
I found this article this morning, and while reading it, I felt my heart-rate increase, I felt all the pain and shame of my adolescent school years all over again. In my stomach, in my heart, behind my eyes - all came flooding back.

I graduated from HS in 1976, at age 17. I was a year younger than my cohort, because I'd started Kindergarten at age 4, in another state, and when we moved to the state I grew up in, they allowed me to continue.

In grade school, there had been a few times I was humiliated. By the time I hit 6th grade, age 9, I was in another new school. I had never attended the same school for longer than three years - we moved for my dad's work. I recall in 3rd grade, having an eye test. When I walked home for lunch, Mom told me that the school nurse said I needed glasses. "Oh, super," was my reaction. I'd be a dork.

Not long after that, I was given a "test" - pulled out of class and given a battery of questions while I sat alone with an adult (presumably the school's nurse or psychologist?). That afternoon I was told I'd be going to a different school the next year - because I was 'gifted'. I was sent to an "Advanced Learning Curriculum" school some miles away. Mom had to drive me there, while my brothers continued at the other school.

I remember when Mom would be late to get me - I'd be the LAST KID waiting, swinging on the playground, wondering if she'd ever come at all. (Of course, she always did....but this was my state of mind, and now, at age 55, I'm piecing together what 'happened' to me that made me who I am.) Now fast forward to "church", a couple of years later. Repeating I was not worthy of crumbs under God's table...that I was a hopeless loser, who every week made grave mistakes - by things I'd done, and things I'd left undone. And I kept thinking: "What?!! What did I do? I try my best to be good!"

In junior high, my mom wouldn't let me dress like the 'cool kids'. Nono, ankle socks, patent leather mary janes, homemade dresses, polyester pantsuits, etc. A dork. When I got cast as the lead character in the school play (much to my surprise and delight), I heard through a friend that the 'cool girls' were saying I was "a slut." WHAT?!!! And in high school, I was always on the fringe. I was in the marching band. (Dork). I was a straight-A student. (Dork). I tried out for cheerleader (then a popularity contest) every year. I was good at it, too! But I was NEVER elected. My best friend was on the JV squad, and she was my ONLY link to 'the cool kids'.

The 'cool girls' made fun of me. They set me up for cruel jokes. They warned me to stay away from their boyfriends (strangely, the boys all seemed to like me anyway)....

Not an atypical story - but it's mine, and unfortunately I have to stick to it. As an adult, I've experienced the same sort of "shunning" - both in social situations and in work. Those are longer stories, and not really relevant here, but I could write all day about it.

Shorten it to say: yes, I have experienced "ostracization" in my lifetime.

Which brings me to this article.
The Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying

You might think bullying is worse than ostracism, but recent research suggests that being frozen out is actually more painful. From social exclusion on the playground to being ignored in the workplace, ostracism is among the most devastating experiences we can endure, deeply connected to our most fundamental human need to be recognized and accepted. Ostracism can reshape the human brain, and in extreme cases, even make a person want to go on a killing spree. Isn’t it time we knew more about it?

One of the things about ostracism in the workplace that makes it so hard to deal with is that it can be very subtle. Getting ignored in a meeting is hard to prove and respond to, but it can be psychologically devastating. In the hands of a petty and malicious boss, ostracism becomes a finely tuned instrument of torture, and one that can be implemented with little fear. There is an ambiguity to it: the targeted person wonders if it’s really happening, and since no one tells the target what may be wrong, the person can’t address the problem. The target feels humiliated and without recourse.

In the corporation, ostracism is often used to deal with the threat of whistleblowers. Unlike other forms of retaliation, like termination, demotion or a poor performance review, ostracism is difficult to document and probably won’t qualify for legal intervention. It is extremely effective because it prevents the target from being able to do his or her work properly, which can create grounds for retaliation that appear to be legitimate.

(The story lends itself to Elliott Rodger's tragic episode; no, I won't go postal, but I can understand his pain. I have, in the past, been quick to retreat - to run away - when I felt it creeping up on me again.)

We need to think about this, seriously. In every form of society.

On Sunday I was listening to This American Life - and encore of a 1997 episode called "The Kindness of Strangers".

In the prologue, the host discusses with Brett Leveridge an experience Brett had

Brett Leveridge was standing on the subway. A guy comes walking down the platform, stopping in front of each passenger and delivering a quiet verdict: "You're in. You're out. You, you can stay. You — gotta go." Most people ignored the guy. But Brett found himself, against his will, hoping the guy would give him the thumbs up, and when the guy does, it's thrilling in a very small way: a tiny kindness from a stranger.

Brett talks about how he's watching this guy assessing people, looking each of them in the eyes, and pronouncing his verdict (although it meant exactly NOTHING in real life terms). He explained how as the guy approached him he actually found himself hoping he'd be "picked." For what? It was for nothing, but all the same, Brett hoped he'd be picked.

The moment came - and he made the cut!
Even though this bizarre subway episode made NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER in real life for ANY of the passengers (those rejected simply ignored the guy), Brett felt a sort of euphoria, and found himself looking at the "rejects" with a mixture of disdain, and pity.

Our sensitivities are uniquely ours. But I can tell you that ostracization is a CRUEL, HORRIBLE thing people to do one another.
I hope you enjoy the article. You can click on the link to Brett's story to listen to him - it's the first five minutes of the episode....

Let me know what you think - but whatever you do, PLEASE don't ignore me!

edit on 6/3/2014 by BuzzyWigs because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:10 AM
Why do I feel like I wanna hug you and sing you a lullaby when I read your post. Beautiful soul. In spite of all darkness you shine thru.


edit on 3-6-2014 by LittleByLittle because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:14 AM
a reply to: LittleByLittle

Aw, thanks. Hug appreciated.
Namaste back, my friend.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:23 AM
I feel you too. I hated HATED high school. Just like you, I was never in one school or another for more than 4 years (pre-school through 1st grade I was in Philly, 2nd - half of 5th grade I was in Indianapolis, second half of 5th through 7th I was in a small town in Mississippi, 8th through 12th I was in maryland) I bounced schools once or twice while living in the same state too. I got to experience a wide range of how schools conduct their educations (Mississippi was by far the worst). I was either in gifted programs or not in them (I was never big on doing homework so my grades would suffer, of course I'd make up for it by doing well on the tests, the teachers hated that). As a result of all this I learned how to bounce from various social groups but I never felt totally included in any of them.

Though I learned to embrace solitude. There is something to be gained for being able to stay by yourself for long periods of time. You have just you and your thoughts and me being an intelligent kid with ADD, my mind is ALWAYS active. But I still hated high school. I remember being told by my teachers and uh... "normal" kids that I would eventually miss high school. I look back and think about the terrible standardized tests (I graduated in 2003 RIGHT as they really started to kick off the standardized testing craze), the dogmatic approach educators take towards education, the social anxiety, and I STILL don't think fondly back on it.

By the way, bullying will never be fixed. I know that being anti-bully is just the hot ticket these days. But that is a problem that will never go away. Bullying is incorporated into literally every facet of our lives. In many cases, it is a fast track way to get promoted to higher positions.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:24 AM
Thanks for posting this. We need a reminder from time to time that how we treat each other matters more than we think.

I was ostracized a bit in high school mainly due to race, but I never let it bother me much. Luckily, I was born with a special superpower called "I don't give a (snip) what you think".

It has served me well over the years and I wish more people had it. What others think about you is not important and what matters most is to keep your self-esteem high.
edit on 6/3/2014 by sheepslayer247 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:28 AM
a reply to: Krazysh0t

Though I learned to embrace solitude. There is something to be gained for being able to stay by yourself for long periods of time.


Like I'm doing right now - and do almost every day, for nearly 6 years now. I finally don't have to work, and spend my days reading, thinking, gardening, cleaning, learning...and hanging out with my pets.

Yeah, high school? I was truly ELATED when we graduated. I have NEVER been to a 'reunion', though I've considered it a couple of times. There's a whole 'nuther story I could tell about that, but suffice to say, I have never looked back at high school as anything other than awful.

I'm glad my kids got to stay with their same cohort all the way through - although there were never many "new kids in town," they had shared histories.

Thanks for your post!!

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:34 AM
a reply to: sheepslayer247

Luckily, I was born with a special superpower called "I don't give a (snip) what you think".

It has served me well over the years and I wish more people had it. What other think about you is not important and what matters most is to keep your self-esteem high.

Yeah, my husband was born with that superpower, too! He always says, "You put way too much energy and attention toward these things. It doesn't matter what others think of you."

I have learned to deal with it - and I have even had some triumphs that helped me overcome that 'low self-esteem'. But once it's there - it's there. Like the article says, it can change the brain - especially the brains of kids. Funny thing is, I never spoke to my mom or family about any of it. They had no idea. I just endured it.

Now, when mom and I talk, she's amazed to hear these things - "You never told me! You never talked about it!"
No, I didn't. It was simply my lot in life, I guess.

So that's another good point for parenting - listen to your kids. (Not 'yours' specifically, sheepslayer, just the general 'you'). Ask them how they are. Recognize when they seem troubled - just because the mockery doesn't bother or didn't affect you (the parent) doesn't mean your kids aren't very sensitive and hurt by the cruelty of others.

Thanks for your response!!!

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 10:45 AM
a reply to: BuzzyWigs

Check this out. I was in an AP class (I believe it was statistics). The class was setup so that once we took the AP test, that was our final exam. But since the AP exam happens a week or two before the end of the school year, we still had to go to the class. The teacher gave us busy work (which I must stress wasn't graded or even factored into our final grade) and made it mandatory. I being an asshole teenager and a smartass decided not to do it and instead goofed around on the internet. I was found out and suspended for 2 days for not doing my work and reading web comics.

I also once left my brand new yearbook ($80) in the back of my pickup truck by accident. I walked onto school property and remembered that I had left it there and turned to go get it. The teacher who watches the kids every morning walk onto school would NOT let me go get it because I had already walked onto school property, even though he could clearly see my pickup truck from where we were standing. I came back after school and it was stolen. (ps: that teacher was an ass, I not only got revenge on him by tricking him with a similar stunt with cigarettes that smelt like marijuana, another student got microsoft to slam him with a copyright infringement lawsuit for putting autocad software on a bunch of computers without proper licenses. Don't f# with nerds

But that was just the teachers. My peers drove me even further up a wall. Being a magnet high school as well as a school sitting on the city line, we saw inner city baltimore kids bused in from the ghettos to suburban smart kids taking ap classes. It was an amalgam of personalities. I haven't been to a reunion yet either.
edit on 3-6-2014 by Krazysh0t because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 11:01 AM
a reply to: Krazysh0t

Yeah, the teachers can be impossible. Your story reminds me of my son. He couldn't tolerate high school either. Born a rebel. Literally KICKED his way into the world when he was ready to be born!

He's brilliant (so is his sister, but she was a conformist all the way). They are so different from each other!

Were your parents 'engaged' with what was going on with you?

I can't hardly count the number of times I had to sit in meetings with teachers and administrators to try to tell them how to deal with my son. The other day I saw an article about how the current school system is set up, just as Henry Ford wanted it to be, to make 'robots' - not 'free-thinking individuals'.

His dad and I finally agreed to just drop him out - he had learned all of it, but just couldn't deal with the 'authority'. I'm the same way. When they were little, I had a bumper sticker that said, "Stay in School. Learn the System. Then Change the System."

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 11:05 AM
a reply to: BuzzyWigs

I completely agree. We must be willing to talk to our kids. My wife and I are very lucky in that we have good kids that are confident and blow-off the nastiness from other people. My arrogance must be rubbing off on them.

Anyway, I am an introvert. I am not socially shy and I can fit in with almost any group of people, but I generally dislike the company of most people and it's almost like they drain my energy. It's hard to explain.

It would be interesting to see the correlation between the effects of being ostracized, self-esteem and introverts/extroverts.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 11:09 AM
a reply to: sheepslayer247

Anyway, I am an introvert. I am not socially shy and I can fit in with almost any group of people, but I generally dislike the company of most people and it's almost like they drain my energy. It's hard to explain.

It would be interesting to see the correlation between the effects of being ostracized, self-esteem and introverts/extroverts.

It's hard to explain, I know - but since I know exactly what you mean, I get it!!
I can talk to ANYONE - the bum on the street, the professional in a suit, the local shoppers while waiting at the check-out line.....but prefer to be alone.

I heard a term once, "energy vampires". I have only a handful of very close loved ones/friends. Let me count.....
Eight. Eight people I'm very close to. Lots of acquaintances I see from time to time, but not more than once a year or so. I don't 'entertain' except if I absolutely have to.....and it's always exhausting to spend a few hours even with people I love very much.

Good for your kids!!! And you and your wife!!

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 11:17 AM
a reply to: BuzzyWigs

Oh my parents talked to my teachers on more than one occasion. I just didn't see the process that the teachers used to teach information was very conducive to making me want to learn better. I will admit that when I was in honors, GT, or AP classes, things went smoother since those classes were faster paced. I still didn't do my homework though.

The problem with school is that even the bullying is ingrained with the teachers as well. It is their way or the highway. And when they are the gatekeepers between you and a decent GPA, they will demand some crazy things from you.

I am an example of someone who falls through the cracks of the public education system. Too bright to keep in general level classes, but not focused enough to do really well in the advanced classes. I was either very bored or disinterested and the schools could do nothing to fix that issue.
edit on 3-6-2014 by Krazysh0t because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 11:26 AM
a reply to: Krazysh0t

Yup! Once (I think it was when he was in middle school), I went to the 'open house' (is that what they call it? Or "Parent Conferences" maybe?) after his dad called me and said the math teacher had made my son cry when he and his dad stopped at her station. (This is a kid who, as a preschooler, LOVED to watch "Adult Math" on PBS!!), the second day of conferences, I went there, without my son, and sat down at her table. I told her who I was, and that I had a problem.

She REFUSED to talk to me, saying she'd call an administrator. I said, "That would be a great idea!" Within five minutes I was in a private conference room with the principal, the school SW, the counselor, and the teacher. I explained about my son....and the very old, very taciturn, strict math teacher rejected my idea of using humor to 'reach' the kids....

She said, and I quote, "We don't do HUMOR in my classroom." I glanced at the principal, who winked at me. The next day they had transferred him to another math teacher. TOO MANY TEACHERS are hopelessly out of touch with their students.
I had worked in schools for 'problem kids', and I knew that making a connection with them - at their level; where THEY "are at" - was the key to making the relationships work.

Thanks again for sharing it!!
(My son is now working, doing fine, and well-liked and recommended by his employers. He's just, well...unruly.)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 04:55 PM
Uuuugghhh school,High school and one year of tech. I used to be picked on and singled out till as others here i just stopped caring what they though. The few times i was in trouble were usually due to some jock or nerd who would think they found a easy mark or someone weaker to push around. Luckily one day in HS this jock pushed me too far and then afterwards everyone even teachers gave me a wide berth.

But yeah i understand where you guys are coming from. Although most of my ostracization was brought on by myself due to me not having any filters to my opinions.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 05:11 PM
a reply to: yuppa

most of my ostracization was brought on by myself due to me not having any filters to my opinions.

Yes. I hear that, too.
I've always been the one in the front row, with her hand up, asking questions....
whether in a class or at a meeting.

I've learned that the people in charge or 'above' you don't like that.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 05:27 PM
I hated High School with a passion. Having non-conformist hippie parents didn't help my social situation in an extremely conservative school, and it wasn't until university that I found like minded peers I could stand in real life. As mentioned by others, often the teachers are just as bad as the students.

The school I went to had no dress code although they were trying to change that, and introduced a school 'rugby' top with school colours. In one of my senior years I won an academic award for English or Media or something. Students were expected to get up in front of the entire school at assembly to collect their award. I was asked if I would purchase a school top to wear at the assembly. I've always been a non-authoritarian/nonconformist, and said 'no'. I was then asked if I was prepared to wear the school top if they loaned me one for the day. Again I refused. Finally I was 'threatened' with not being given the award I had earned by being top student in that subject.5( My response to them was that I had earned the award, and if they chose not to give it to me it would reflect upon them, not me.

Ultimately I was given the award, and collected it at the assembly in my normal everyday clothes. I overheard a couple of teachers saying what a disgrace I was to the school. This episode has stuck with me my whole life, and I'm glad that I stuck to my guns. My parents were totally supportive as well. Now if there had been a school uniform rule, that would have been a different situation, but there wasn't. It's interesting the tactics of bullying and ostracism the teachers and administration used, and it's no wonder the students act how they do.

Many years later I got my teaching qualification, and for a period I taught in secondary school. I was put under pressure to 'crack down' upon things like school uniform infractions, and students with body/facial piercings, other than the ears. I tended to disregard cautioning students expressing their individuality as I think it irrelevant to learning. I'm interested in academic performance, not appearance, and this can be reflected in how students perceive teachers. I seemed to have an easier run with 'more difficult' students because of this.
edit on 3-6-2014 by cuckooold because: (no reason given)

edit on 3-6-2014 by cuckooold because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 05:41 PM
a reply to: BuzzyWigs

Read your whole thread and I agree totally... Ostracism is especially cruel to the sensitive soul. I was fine until school - where being the same, looking the same, acting the same are tolerated and praised. Being different...well, there's a battle. Junior high was especially bad, I remember praying to God I would die in my sleep and not have to deal with another day of bullies and clueless teachers (some who were bullies themselves).

I remember a report card from first grade with the note: "Asks too many questions...". It was implied that I didn't listen...I've been nothing BUT a listener my whole life...but I questioned everything. Like you, people love to talk to me - at the store, waiting to get the car repaired, etc...because I listen and I engage. I actually do think and try to help them. Consequently like you say...emotional vampires are a real threat. I don't think of them as creatures but my caring about them is taking up my brain space and I've got enough of my own weirdness to deal with.

Oh, the work world. Corporate will kill a sensitive person from the inside to the out. I was on a good roll until I met a manager who would seek to destroy anyone who opposed her micromanaging and conniving. I left a job that paid more than I ever hoped because it was making me want to drive into an oncoming semi on the way to work. I did my job and I did it well, but that was never enough. I got praise from everyone but her. But she managed to ostracize everyone that opposed her. And so it's never been the same. I've got the smarts, the IQ to be anything (not bragging it's 144)...but I simply refuse to play a game I'm not allowed to win. I don't have the fortitude I guess, to deal with all of the drama along with trying to do a good job.

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 06:27 PM
There is a connection between ostracism and conspiracy theorists in that the CT's are publically pronounced "wing nuts, paranoid, etc. i.e. - mentally unstable and therefore dangerous. Sandy Hook added a new twist in that anyone questioning the events is being labeled "vicious, maligning and intrusive" who have no respect for the privacy of the victim's families.

We saw how that played out with the guy supposedly stealing the playground signs and calling the McDonnells (parents of a little girl killed). They don't have an unlisted number? Even after all the accusations of people calling and harassing them?.
The TV crew interviewed the father of the man arrested and said he was a conspiracy theorist too who didn't believe Sandy Hook really happened and they even asked him! "So you don't believe anyone was killed at Sandy Hook?".

We're automatically shunted to the extreme and thought of in the worst possible terms. What it does is lump everyone together who even have any questions at all. It's the all-or-nothing gambit, like Bush II's "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" mass accusation campaign.

They are trying hard to sway public opinion against those who question the official version of events. Now that they have made it "legal" to publish propaganda straight from the White House (no Madison Ave required!) this is what we've been reduced to. Those with doubts are victims of a smear campaign but I have a sneaking suspicion they are losing ground. A few more thinking people can and do make a difference. We cannot be a part of any democratic process without the right to question.

On a personal note I got used to being the butt end of jokes at an early age. Having an older sibling is one problem. Being the shortest kid in school is another. Having a speech impediment made it a perfect trifecta. I learned to ignore how others feel or think about me because I realized THEY DON"T KNOW ME. They don't my mind or my heart. It's how I learned to stop judging others by being judged myself.

Anyhow, if you are the oddball, go with it.
Be the best oddball you can be.
edit on 3-6-2014 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 3 2014 @ 08:20 PM
a reply to: BuzzyWigs

Well done OP, F&S! Don't let the noise get in the
way of your music. I got that from my oldest friend
toward the end of last year, and I've been tight with
him for almost fifty.
We still play music one Sunday a month, and I unlike
him listen to DeathFM. So much for letting any music
get in the way of my noise URRRrrh. louder guys

I see a quite common attribute on the site, and that's
ruggedly independent thinking. It's the bane of cliques,
and will get you a lot of weekends to catch up on your
reading. But I wouldn't submit to a hive mentality no
matter what the size, now we're all but criminals for it.

Let them fume and spew -- I mean all they can do is
kill you. And afterward there's every likelihood you'll
never have to deal with them again... because from the
OP you will likely end up in different places.

I accept no denial of my joy.. that's my job.

posted on Jun, 4 2014 @ 07:36 PM
No one cares what I think, but I gotta say this is an excellent thread, throwing light on why, how and what it feels like to be the socially disenfranchised… I could write about it a long while, just like you, but don't. What I do experience is how much of a clique this website, is, just like high school. Huh, go figure. See, you're doing well here, so maybe those past experiences will be behind you soon. For my part, I've really liked your responses, here, and enjoyed your company, so thanks….

As to the past, in the present you have a husband and a family. I only say that because I strive everyday to remain thankful for what I do have while thinking about what I'm suffering or have missed….. I think we must all do this to get through our toughest times…
Sincerely and appreciatively,

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