I decided to throw this discussion I wrote for Psychology up here. It seemed too good to not repost.
“Human beings, contended the personality theorist Alfred Adler, have an ‘urge to community’ (Ferguson, 1989, 2001, 2010) (Myers, p. 434).” The human experience is one of community and interaction. Many cases of maladjustment can be tied to lack of healthy human interaction. “Asked…’What is it that makes your life meaningful?’ most people mention—before anything else—close, satisfying relationships with family, friends, or romantic partners (Berscheid, 1985) (Myers, p. 435).” Even those with more introverted temperaments will suffer maladjustment when placed in completely asocial environments. “Prolonged social exclusion actually results in lowered cognitive functioning and can lead to a dizzying array of physical symptoms (1)”
The need for “community” can most clearly be seen in the pain felt in situations that involve some type of social ostracism. According to the text, “To experience ostracism is to experience real pain, as Williams and his colleagues were surprised to discover in their studies of social ostracism (Gonsalkorale and Williams, 2006) (Myers, p. 437).” “Psychologically, we seem to experience social pain with the same emotional unpleasantness that marks physical pain (MacDonald and Leary, 2005) (Myers, p. 437).” According to John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “Loneliness isn’t necessarily a result of being alone… They can be around a lot of people but feel completely isolated. In humans, perceived isolation is so much more important than physical isolation(2).” Feeling loneliness in the midst of a crowd due to social ostracism can be one of the most painful experiences, and leave some of the most enduring mental and emotional scars on those who are subject to it.
My childhood was a very complex time of scathing ostracism. The simplified background to this ostracism is that I grew up in a generationally abusive household. My mother, survivor of unspeakable abuse as a child at the hands of her family, unknowing allowed her children to suffer abuse at the hands of her abusers as well. Her attempts to keep those secrets suppressed in the deepest parts of her, caused her to be blind to the evidences of our abuse. Our house and my grandparent’s house held secrets in every room and corner. The importance of this history to my story of ostracism is that, though I couldn’t put my finger on why, I knew we were not like everyone else. I remember my childhood as very lonely and very dark. I suffered from severe depression, suicidal ideations and tendencies toward self-harm that would increase as I reached teen years.
Because my mother was so mentally ill and neglectful, I often went to school dirty, poorly dressed and pretty unkempt. I had a first grade teacher who showed her displeasure of my appearance very obviously as well as made fun of me at times. I didn’t really have any friends in elementary school; what I did have was a large group of girls who relentlessly picked on, made fun of and instigated others to mistreat me. Neither my home nor school felt like safe places for me. I felt so alone in this world and often wondered why I had even been placed on this earth. I remember fantasizing as a child about being in car accidents or disasters and rescuing everyone involved. I think that I thought somehow that would make me worthy of someone’s love.
We did finally flee from our family of origin in search of some type or normalcy. It was extremely lonely for many years. Although, our family had been abusive, there was such a gaping hole left in our lives where they had been. We had no one, but the three us, my mother, my self and my brother. As the text says, “Even when bad relationships break, people suffer. After separations, feelings of loneliness and anger—sometimes even a strange desire to be near the former partner—linger (Myers, p. 436).”
That feeling of loneliness would linger for years in our family. We would be invited to friend’s houses for holidays, but somehow it was never like we had family. We always, though we loved and appreciated the invitations, felt like extra appendages. That is until I married my most amazing husband. (I know you did not ask for this part in the assignment, but I cannot tell the beginning of my story without including the end. It is depressing and not fair to the reader.) My husband’s family adopted us with the most amazing love, compassion and grace. From the moment I became a Hall, my mother and brother became Hall’s as well. We became a part of their family; we were not appendages; we were family. We spend holidays together as a family. We have never had to worry about splitting holidays because my mother and brother come to my in-laws and we celebrate as a family. The memories and pain of being alone for so many years have faded like an old watercolor picture. They have been replaced with years of beautiful memories celebrating with a family who adopted another small, broken, misfit family. It has taken 20 years of working through the past layer by layer to find closure and resolution, but it has been a good 20 years for which I am grateful both of the healing and wholeness which has come as well as for the painful past that has made me the woman I am today.