In my day, Ramsey Lewis’ song “I’m In With The In Crowd I go where the "In" crowd goes ..I know what the "In" crowd knows.” was popular and is still enjoyed today. The lyrics have kept a shine because they touch something basic in all of us.
We live for human connection. We greatly desire relationships because they increase our confidence and self-esteem. They make us feel important, worthy, and connected. We all need others to help us develop our personalities and grow intellectually.
At the same time, both adults and children have experienced being intentionally left out, discounted or ostracized. This intentional behavior in which a group or individual excludes and ignores another group or individual is present nearly everywhere. Ostracism causes real pain because our basic needs for belonging, self-esteem, control, and recognition is thwarted. Research suggests that the absence of close social bonds is strongly linked to depression, unhappiness and other troubles.
The psychological experience of being ostracized is painful.
It dramatically raises anxiety levels and causes depression and despondency. Physical pain is often present because ostracism activates the part of the brain that handles pain management.
Ostracism causes many people to withdraw from social connection and activities that they previously enjoyed and feel isolated and lonely.
Children as young as 5 are sensitive to being excluded. This suggests we recognize early, even the subtlest indications of rejection. And according to Rachel Watson-Jones, researcher in the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin, “Humans have an evolutionary prepared ostracism-detection system.”
For kids on the playground, adults in the workplace, or couples who employ the silent treatment when they have disagreements, being left out affects the brain. When it comes to dealing with ostracism, there's a whole package of behaviors, thoughts, and perceptions people use to try to improve their chances to get included. Even young children will change their behaviors in an attempt to mimic the group’s rituals in order to re-affiliate with the group. “Whether it’s the way they dress, play, eat, or activities in which they participate, a child will imitate the behavior of others to make it look like they are part of that group.” says Watson-Jones. They may go out of their way to please. Others get on the outs by trying too hard to be funny, being a spoil sport, demanding inclusion or becoming angry when things don’t go their way. Some people try to force others to pay attention to them. Some people crave connection so strongly they make bad choices and chose to be with people whose values are inconsistent with their own.
The depth and gravity of ostracism are usually not understood. Generally, people are likely to discount, minimize and invalidate the pain others feel from ostracism. “Some ostracized people will act out in inappropriate ways to try to get those ostracizing them to notice them any way they can, because, negative attention feels better than no attention. In the most extreme cases, ostracism can lead to violence or suicide.” says Cristine Legare.
As a new school year begins, you may negate Ramsey’s lyrics “You ain’t been nowhere till you been in with "In" crowd.” We may enjoy but, we don’t need the “In” crowd. However it’s important to keep a watchful eye to help people being ostracized and move to prevent those who may ostracize others.
What’s A person To Do?
1. Chill out. It’s counter productive to react by arguing, begging, crying, or pleading to be included. These behaviors invites more rejection.
2. Encourage people to be good sports. People who struggle socially often have a hard time coping with winning and losing. They may argue, cheat, shove, or become very upset if things don't go their way. These behaviors spoils the fun for everyone.
3. Noone needs to be funny to fit in. When attempts at humor are even a little bit "off," they're not funny; they're annoying.
4. Learn how to join in. Compliments (“Nice shot” or “Good Job or Looks like fun”) work better than criticism. People who are rejected often push too hard, too soon, at trying to connect.
5. The greatest threat occurs when people are ostracized by a love relationship, a relative, or a friend. Make sure you’re not doing that.
6. Out of the “In” Crowd? No worry. The research shows that having one good, close, friend is sufficient for most of us.
© Rachell N. Anderson, Psy. D. August 31, 2016
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives in Tunica and writes with the Tunica Chapter of the Mississippi Writers Guild in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books she has written.