How Being Ostracized Affects the Brain

By Suzanne Holman • June 15th, 2011

Another word for being ostracized is being bullied.

Bullying is part of our culture from childhood through adulthood.
 
That old "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names and faces don't hurt me"   is a lot of bologna!  The pain of being ridiculed and excluded goes deeps and the healing is much more difficult.
 
So when I saw Daniel Amen's newsletter with research describing how ostracism affects the brain, it really caught my eye.  I wanted to share this with you.  
 
Rejection is one of the most painful emotions we can experience.  An expert from Purdue University stated that ostracism can cause pain often deeper and longer lasting than a physical injury.

“Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying that doesn’t leave bruises, and therefore we often underestimate its impact,” said Kipling D. Williams, a professor of psychological sciences. “Being excluded by high school friends, office colleagues, or even spouses or family members can be excruciating.”

“When a person is ostracized, the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which registers physical pain, also feels this social injury,” Williams said.

Williams divides the process of ostracism into three stages:

  • Being ignored or excluded
  • Coping with this exclusion
  • Resignation to being excluded

Being excluded is extremely painful because it threatens our fundamental human need for the feeling of belonging, the core of our self esteem.

“Again and again research has found that strong, harmful reactions are possible even when ostracized by a stranger or for a short amount of time,” said Williams.

 

Journal Reference:
K. D. Williams, S. A. Nida. Ostracism: Consequences and Coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011; 20 (2): 71 DOI: 10.1177/0963721411402480
Purdue University (2011, June 6). Pain of ostracism can be deep, long-lasting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/05/110510151216.htm

 
 
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