Everyday ostracism

What is it like to be ostracized?

Silent treatment, social exclusion, social death, etc., are all “soft” terms which refer to ostracism.  But most people only get a brief taste of ostracism before their distress leads them to seek to alleviate the experience.  When truly ostracized, there is no one to contact, no ear to bend, no hand to seek. No solace, no understanding, no healing – just ceaseless nothing.

I have no emergency contact to list.  I can’t “express my end of life wishes” because in this state, only a healthcare proxy is recognized.  I have no one to serve as my representative, and so only have a living will form on file which will be ignored should I become unable to express my wishes directly.

I speak to no one on a daily basis.  The extent of my interactions with people is to say please and thank you to clerks and bus drivers.  No one voluntarily speaks to me – ever. When my landlord responds to a rare request of maintenance with a surly, “if you don’t like it here, leave”, I have nowhere to go TO. I have no reason for staying, either. Permanent limbo.

No one calls or mails.  The only reason for my phone is to be able to call 911.  I also receive the rare robot call to verify an appointment. I have no references, no network and no way back IN. Permanent impermanence.

It means that I only go to places which tolerate me, as I am not welcome anywhere.  No one ever returned my calls or responded to invitations to meet socially.  I learned to stop initiating contact because it was – and always will be – unwanted. Permanent undesirable OTHER.

The first time someone turned their back and hurried away from me so as not to be seen with me was confusing, hurtful and humiliating.  I learned to get used to it and to avoid anyone familiar because to be seen with me might be harmful to them in terms of their job security or their own risk of social exclusion. Now there is no one who recognizes me at all due to time, aging and general forgetfulness – I have no meaning for anyone to remember. I am already dead and forgotten to everyone I knew.

Ostracism is lethal, but it is clean, bloodless, non-violent.  It is the absence of action, the withholding of affection, the denial of another’s very existence.

I am untouchable, unlikeable and unlovable.  This is my place – no place.  And my life – no life. There is no comfort, no compassion, no companionship, no humanity.  It is a complete void. To be deliberately untethered from the world is to experience a form of death, but one with eyes wide open and all sense unfortunately registering during every waking moment and throughout dream sleep.

It is inhuman, and it is my present and my future.

My voice is unwelcome.  I have been rendered worthless, purposeless and without meaning.  Predictably, there will be no comments here or discussion anywhere, not because of moderation, but because as soon as the reader gets the gist of this, they (you) will hurry away.  It is repulsive and dreadful to confront this, and the reaction is the same as if happening upon someone obviously infected with an untreatable fatal disease.

That is what it is like to be ostracized. No one to contact on 9/11, and no one who contacted me.

Never forget, indeed. As if I could.


4 thoughts on “Everyday ostracism

  1. I understand what you are experiencing, if only just a little bit. It’s so painful… Just know that you are a person, just like everyone else, who is worthy of love and respect. You matter, even if everyone else is too stupid to see it.

    And maybe, someday, you will be pleasantly surprised. Maybe someone on the bus will start making small talk with you, and you’ll exchange numbers. In time, you’ll have a new friend.

    Or maybe one of your old friends will get back in contact with you, and apologize for their distance. Maybe s/he’ll feel really guilty about how s/he treated you, and s/he’ll have truly missed you terribly.

    I know that it feels like things will never change. But we are blinded by the reality of the present moment, equating it with the future. The truth is that the future is unknown. You could be refolded into society just as unexpectedly as you were booted out of it.

    Perhaps to be less lonely, you could get a dog. Dogs have no conception of human social rules. A dog will not know that society has marked you an outcast; a dog will simply love you endlessly. You also should consider volunteering with children. Their acceptance is also virtually limitless.

    Best Wishes and God Bless!

    • Animal adoptions and volunteering require referrals and references, too. Been there and have had the same response: no returned phone calls, emails, etc. Without a network, there is no ability to network.

      I appreciate your well wishes. I’m just using myself as an exemplar. There are more like me, and I also feel powerless and helpless to help them.

  2. If with this article you are talking about people with diagnosed mental illnesses, then, from my experience (I’ve met several such people), the ostracism reaction from healthy people is because:
    * you feel like you are talking to a fragmented person. You don’t know to which fragment you are talking now and which fragment is going to reply.
    It’s perceived as totally randomized.
    And it’s not an improv narrative skills exercise where you talk somewhat non-sense, but there are strict basic rules you both are aware of.
    * you aren’t trained to talk properly to mentally ill people, so you don’t know what is the right way to behave and how to not do harm to the person or, what’s percived as even worse, get harmed.
    * you feel like there is going to be a “street dog effect”, so you are trying to minimize the interaction in order to save your independence. Maybe it’s only in my country, but kids are taught that if you look at the street dog too long or, even worse, feed it, then the dog will follow you and you won’t be able to get rid of it easily.
    * you feel some guilt. All mentally ill people can be treated, but the one you are talking to is either has no money for treatment, or he/she wasn’t trained by a professional to self-manage the issues, or the treatment has bad side effect for this person, or the treatment for his/her specific issue isn’t invented yet. So you kind of understand that you are talking to the almost dead person who is in such condition because of the society which you represent.

    My guess is that ill person can try to address these issues (give potential friends instructions on how to behave in specific situations, make a joke about other concerns, etc.) in communications and in this way actually ensure normal relationships.
    Also, see point 4) below.

    BUT if you were talking about people who are temporarily in the ostracism and kind of depression situation, then I’ve been there.
    Pieces of this your article could be easily in my diary circa 2008-2010.

    What helped:
    a) I listened to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, multiple times throughout the year. I saw mentions of this book, but had low trust for it (it might be new agey! cheap self-help book!) until I saw it in the list of Recommended Books at http://www.myspace.com/afp (after latest myspace redesign it is no longer there though) and Glen’ website (google.com/search?q=tolle+site%3Aviperchill.com). I liked Amanda Palmer for her energy and weirdness, and Glen is a coolheaded pragmatic guy, so I was finally convinced to read the book.
    The important fact to mention is that I got audiobook – it turned out this guy talking makes me calm and gives me a portion of “live” communications, i.e. I feel less lonely.
    But the best things is the content of the book really helps you to change your mindset and also gives you the mechanism for changing your emotional state/perspective.
    I listened to it twice (2 chapters per day, because 1 chapter per day was not enough to live the day good), made notes, and thought I’m fine now, I’m not going to listen to it again. I came back to it some time later, and later again though, because I simply forgot the important things from there.

    Tolle kind of made a smart compilation of Buddhism, conventional psychology, etc. and presents it in a smart and simple way too.

    b) I then read Buddhism Plain and Simple (and maybe I should have read it earlier), and with
    it got even more trustworthy for me.

    c) Then I read a textbook on systems thinking/systems theory, Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows, and this book was funnily in tune with the Buddhism basics.

    I have pretty low self-discipline though, so for me getting a habit of meditating daily and keeping in mind the core rules for operating in reality – it’s a slow process, but I’m in it.

    2) eat properly (make sure you get enough of vitamins, minerals, Omega 3, fiber – e.g., as I rememeber, the deficit of some B vitamins can be a reason of weakess, depression) and exercise. This will make yourself more positive and save you from developing physical and even mental illnesses.
    For example, if I allow myself to not take walks and not exercise for 2 days in a row, I turn into a vegetable.
    If you can’t exercise properly because of your physical condition (I got myself one because of bad diet, long-term pessimism, and not exercising), then you can free-dance for an hour, for example, or take 1 h+ walks instead of 30min.

    3) choose carefully what you read, watch, and listen to – this affects your emotional state really much, expecially if you are all by yourself, i.e. in a communications vacuum.
    E.g., I stopped watching dramas, reading fiction, and listening to sad music during my difficult period. I watched comedies only – bad, average, good, great, whatever (it’s not important even whether you actually laugh at them). And also David Letterman and Craig Ferguson interviews – some of them are really funny.

    4) take time/force yourself to work on the things that you are interested in (drawing, writing, cartooning/comics art, designing, etc.) and actually create/finish something in this area.
    I’m in my late twenties and, from my attempts in recent years, I discovered that at this age you no longer can make friends because of merely similar interests. You have to actually “walk the talk” and create things, and based on these things you find friends/your people. Creating things is how you earn trust/respect of other adults.
    Here is a relevant quote I stumbled on recently:
    “But I also grew up thinking that that was how you made a living: you took whatever was your own specific interest and went as far as you could with it, and that was how you met people and engaged with the world. Not that you went out and got a job.” by Miranda July.

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