Understanding Aspects of Thwarted Belongingness – Humiliation


I think I’m going to use Thomas Joiner‘s work as a frame of reference for a while.  So back to the notion of thwarted belongingness.  What groups of people might that have applicability?

I think any stigmatized group might be affected.  In the US, that might be LGBT self identified people, whistleblowers, people who have visible disabilities, people who are bullied, and people who do not act in the proscribed ways of their communities. For example, religious denominations which practice shunning or repudiation.  Moreover, in the US immigrants are often targeted for humiliation and ill treatment.  Blacks and Latinos in the US, and people of minority races within their local communities are often segregated and excluded in significant ways.  Families can scapegoat vulnerable members and deny them belongingness.

There is an essay in Psychiatric Times by Jane B. Sofair about humiliation being a factor in suicidality.  That would be another example of intended exclusion with a result of thwarted belongingness. She lists signs of risk around humiliation, and they struck home:

TABLE: Near suicidal signs7,8

• Inability to form a working alliance
• Unwillingness to be known
• Intolerance of being understood
• Agitation
• Cogitation
• Detachment and despair
Social isolation
• Change in treatment compliance patterns
Suicidal ideation, plan, and intent with preparations
• Discrepancy between verbal self-report and actions
• Perceived environmental humiliation

Note that isolation is once again mentioned. It’s a recurrent theme, and it can be addressed in psychological treatment, but more important, as a public health issue and societal value, it can be addressed at all levels – individual resources, local, state and national policy and culture.

Thwarted belongingness can often not be self-managed. It requires external resources: people who voluntarily include and support the victim – mentors, coaches, champions and trustworthy, reliable and consistent people. Work regulations which do not allow for capricious harassment and at whim terminations, punishments and retaliation are key. Schools which assure that all students, teachers and staff are treated with respect, dignity and inclusion are vital. Communities which value all of their members with these same values are fundamental.

Does psychiatry have a role to play? I’m not sure. Certainly this is not a distressor which should result in medication, seizure induction or deep brain stimulation. And what else does psychiatry in its extant iteration offer?

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