The Psychological Effects of Feeling Excluded

If you’ve ever been left out and excluded in a social situation, you’ve been ostracized. It’s a common human experience, happening as often as once a day or more, but it’s not any fun. It doesn’t even have to a close friend or family member to sting—it can hurt even when a stranger excludes us.

Research in social psychology has investigated the impacts of this common unpleasant experience. What does it feel like to be ostracized? What do people do when they feel excluded? Let’s look at just some of what these studies have found.


Feeling Excluded Hurts…Literally?

punched-624751_640If you feel excluded, you might say something like “you hurt my feelings!” But when you say “hurt,” you obviously mean it metaphorically…or do you?

Emerging evidence in neuroscience has suggested that the physical feeling of pain (from, say, stubbing your toe) and the social/emotional feeling of pain (from ostracism) overlap in terms of how your brain processes it. That is to say, the same area of the brain that we know to be involved in processing physically painful feelings—the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex—is also relatively active when people have just been excluded.

Further evidence has shown that taking acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol[1]  Or paracetamol for my overseas friends.)—a common pain reliever—was capable of reducing feelings of social rejection over a three-week period, compared to placebo. Once again, as far as your brain’s chemistry is concerned, feeling ostracized seems a lot like experiencing real physical pain.

Feeling Excluded Hurts Psychologically

person-692159_1280-webObviously, being socially rejected and stubbing your toe aren’t exactly the same experience. Lots of research has established that even a brief experience of being rejected by a total stranger can make people feel sad and angry.

Even more than these negative emotions, though, feeling left out can mess with some fundamental psychological needs. For one, people feel a reduced sense of general belongingness after experiencing rejection. This is a big deal because psychologists argue that achieving a sense of social belonging is a fundamental psychological need.

It would be bad enough if ostracism just reduced feelings of belonging, but being rejected can reduce self-esteem, a sense of control, and a sense of having a meaningful existence.

What’s more, these negative reactions seem to apply regardless of who’s rejecting you. Whether it’s someone in your own group or someone who you don’t relate to, ostracism stings. Whether it’s a human or a computer who rejects you, ostracism stings. Even if you think the person who’s rejecting you is someone you despise (like a KKK member), ostracism still stings!

So regardless of who might reject us, that feeling of being excluded produces a range of harmful consequences. I think we can agree that these aren’t great outcomes. So what do people do in response to these feelings?

People Look to Be Included Again

If feeling left out makes you feel reduced social belonging, the natural thing to do is try to make social connections again. After all, you should try to restore what seems missing. A whole bunch of research has shown that this is what tends to happen.

As a simple illustration, one study found that people who were made to feel social rejection went on to express greater interest in making friends than people in control conditions. Similarly, after feeling social exclusion, people are more interested in working on a project with a partner rather than on their own, compared to people who weren’t feeling excluded.

In addition, people who have been ostracized are also better tuned to social information, more likely to conform with a group, cooperate with other people, and nonconsciously mimic a stranger (which helps establish greater rapport).

The Exclusion Conclusion

It’s clear that ostracism is a critically important concept in social psychology. I’ve written before on this blog about how important social connection is—many say it’s fundamental. So interrupting that connection can be damaging in many ways. This review is just one part of all the work that has been done. Other work has shown how people lash out with aggression in response to feeling ostracized, how rejection can impair people’s self-control, and psychologists have also considered the long-term effects of persistent social exclusion.

These effects are important to consider, especially in the domain of bullying and other everyday cases of exclusion, so keep in mind these negative impacts ostracism can have before cavalierly excluding a friend or stranger.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.   Or paracetamol for my overseas friends.

49 thoughts on “The Psychological Effects of Feeling Excluded

  1. This to me is an extremely poignant and meaningful subject. I have only just found that my biggest trigger in terms of seeking self-medication (alcohol) was because of social/family exclusion. I have had many instances of being left out, ostracized and made to feel unworthy while ‘everyone else was included’ from a very early age….. I was amazed and comforted at the fact that this article confirms that there is a physical connection in response.
    Feeling ostracized to this day (rationally or irrationally) warrants an intensely physical sensation for me. I feel heat in my head and ears, intense nausea, increased heart-rate, and a feeling of devastation and panic override rational thoughts and processing. Id say it is what many might feel in a ‘jealous rage’…
    Coincidentally, I have been working with a rehab center to learn how to stop, consider and then act instead of allowing my triggered feelings to instantly react; falling into substance abuse. I have been able to catch most things now and I make healthy choices easily — but being ostracized is still my biggest and most painful trigger. I proved this today. I had an episode of feeling left out – frankly because I really was left out of a family situation. I had been working toward; clearing old patterns in order to live ‘in the now’ without being hijacked by my ego, my instant response or thinking patterns. Today tested my mettle. After being left out – I had all the physical responses/feelings that drove me to self-medication take me over. I am happy to say that I started to come out of this response after 45 minutes. I did not choose a bad path, as I always did, to avoid the awful feelings. I recognized something was not right in my reaction… and then, boom – I found this page. This mental/physically tangible connection you bring to light gives me great hope. I am gaining a much better understanding and ability to recognize how to stop and think/feel before reacting…I was able to work myself down off a ledge…powerful stuff — so glad I read this blog!

    • That is great! I’m so happy to hear someone else’s success. I am here because my sister and her girlfriend who my fiancé and I let live with us have decided to throw a two week long party where they invited their friends to spend then night for literally 14 days (which is against the lease technically at that point except they decided to split it up so its not… technically) even though I’m extremely uncomfortable with it. And the reason they are allowed to is because my fiancé is okay with it. So all 5 of them are having fun in the living room while I cry silently by myself in my rooms because I can’t handle being “on” for that long and “performing” aka pretending like I’m totally okay with it.. I don’t know what to do. The whole situation with them out voting me is driving a wedge between me and my fiancé because he doesn’t respect how the things they do effect me. It’s gotten so bad I don’t even know if I can even marry this man. But to them, I’m just “over reacting.” Except I know they don’t actually want me out there because I’m a Debby Downer, a Party Pooper, a Wet Blanket. The ironic thing is I’m all these thighs BECAUSE I’ve felt so left out and ostrisized by them. :'(

      • Feeling/behaving like a party pooper/wet blanket/debby downer triggered because of your feelings of being left out – this rings so so so true to me.
        I connect with you so much on this.
        Reading that there is a deep connection between feeling ostracized and fundamental psychological needs makes a lot of sense to me.
        I’ve always feel like any time I’ve felt ostracized, it’s a very painful experience. I wonder though if some people are more likely to feel left out, or if there is some sort of extrovert/introvert correlation? Or maybe a connection to social anxiety? (I am an introvert with social anxiety)
        I don’t think most people feel ostracized as often as I do. If they do, it doesn’t seem as painful. Or maybe people just aren’t taking about it.
        Are there coping techniques?

    • It is related to boundaries and being mistreated.
      A good book is charles whitfield…boundaries, protecting your self.

      It may not change the mistreatment, but can help recognise who triggers you and how best to deal with it, for your own integrity of self.

  2. Good Morning Universe, and all my excluded friends out there,
    Hello, my name is Liz, and I am your friend.
    I deeply emphasize with others who are chronically excluded. I know your pain.
    Actually I am a lucky person, who has encountered an odd situation with my Mom and Sister.
    I am an adult child of an alcoholic father, and divorce between my parents. My father also suffer with mental illness.
    When my sister marry into wealth, we all supported her, I am not from wealthy family. I’m My sister then took charge of rolling out all holidays, without me. For years I sent gifts hoping I could be part of things. Once in twenty years I have seen family at my mom home, which I consider my home as I don’t have my own home. So my mom has not backed me on having continuity or connections or familiarity with my sister and her family. I have a lot in common with my sister and her family.
    I have made this situation harder on myself by acting out verbally with my mom, raising my voice, and taking it all in a very negative manner.
    My sister and her family are not my favorite people, but my mom is mid eighties and I miss time with her that I will never replace.
    I move to Detroit area 3 years ago, near where my sister, brother in law live, and I ask to be included at mom eighty birthday, offer to cook brunch, and buy ingredients.
    They don’t want me over at my own mom birthday, and I have sent high end gifts into their home, I have been good to my sister over the years, sending bday cards, get well cards etc.
    They have a closed system and my mom is intimidated by my super control freak sister
    So I am odd woman out. They tell her what to do and she goes along so not to make waves , as my sister easily gets furious and irate with everyone.
    After doing research on family conflict, by the way I have asked my mom if we may please resolve our situation, I have worked with clergy at my mom church, and my own church etc,, I have also been in therapy. Anyway I have learned that being excluded is a reflection of my sister and mom behavior and actions, and I have talen all this way too hard.
    I can’t even talk to my sister for five minutes with out being verbally abused, so guess what I now avoid her serious. I would like to divorce my sister for good and be happy to have her out of my life for good.
    I have no sense of understanding why I am chronically excluded, and bullied by this other woman.
    When my sister gets irate, I can’t tell if she is a man or a woman…..she certainly doesn’t talk or act feminine.
    I am your new friend Liz, to all excluded people out there.
    I Feel Your Pain. Thanks for listening.

  3. Hey Liz. Kudos to you and everyone on here for sharing! I’m not ready to tell my story of exclusion because it’s too painful. With me it’s been both family and peer for many years. I don’t bother trying to establish deep connections with anyone for fear of ever feeling ostracism ever again.

  4. I placed an earlier comment but it appears that it didn’t take so I apologize if you have already seen the comment. Kudos to everyone on here for sharing! I’m new to this exchanging comments and my story is too painful to tell right now. My exclusion story is both of family and peer for an extended time. I no longer attempt to connect with others on a deep level for fear of ever feeling ostracism again. I keep all relationships shallow and simple. Thanks for listening.

    • Yeah im here with family and I feel excluded especially when everybody else is married with kids and your the only one that doesn’t have that and everybody else is talking to each other i always feel excluded with family all the time for some reason I guess im not important enough i don’t know even I try to make an effort

  5. I excluded myself from his conservative family. They let me know passively that they are not happy with me.
    It hurts so much that I decided not to spend the holidays with my in laws.
    I don’t want to throw a tantrum out of weakness and depression.
    I don’t to embarrass my husband.
    I am alone in a foreign country.

  6. The problem with exclusion is that you believe others are actually “right” to exclude you: there’s something wrong with you and that’s why it hurts so much. But having people that dislike you / gossip about you / deliberately exclude you isn’t as bad as having people from your social spheres who do not even acknowledge you. Feeling invisible is a real killer of the soul and mind. And when you feel that way, I am sorry to say, you are either severely depressed and so distort everything in a very negative way, or there is something that really makes others not see and want to interact with you. So, what if others are “right”?

  7. There comes a time when a person must either choose to be a door mat or actively and deliberately refuse to be abused. We are overloaded with poor advice that basically says either “suck it up” or “get another job”. I think people should watch closely, think clearly and fight back intelligently. It’s long overdue to put bullies in their places. The tragedy is that the business, legal and law enforcement professionals will NEVER side with the victim. Currently, if the bully is part of the larger group, a member of a “protected” group or simply someone in authority, whatever happens is “OK” and those in power will simply look away.

    • There’s nothing you can do to fight the bullies, your best option really is to leave and start afresh somewhere new

  8. I’m in my early 50s and have been no stranger to feeling excluded. It all started when I was a child, and my sister came along, then progressed to being bullied in school and ostracized. My sister has taken to having holidays where she bugs my mother about getting together with my brother, but never bothers asking me. My mom has since moved 1000 miles away, and it’s been nearly one year since I’ve seen her. After another holiday went by with sis calling the shots again, I decided enough was enough, and I didn’t bother showing up at their holiday – mind you, my sister had my mom come stay with her (she lives in PA and I live in RI – the farthest away from everyone – they made plans to stay over in CT the Friday and Sat. night of New Years weekend, and finally my sister only bothered saying anything to me because my mom told her to remember to invite me.. This would have meant driving 100 miles one way for a get together that started at 12:30 and ended around 5 because my brother had to get his daughters back to his ex.. I know they got together that Fri and visited because my brother sent a mass email about the “PA crew” and what they were going to do. I decided I didn’t want to be a part of the furntiture again so I blew it off, sent regrets before it.. My sister actually had the nerve to email me after and say she was ‘looking forward to seeing me and my engagement ring’ … but no one ever offered formal congrats to me – my fiance and I got engaged Dec. 10…. I was so upset about how they didn’t bother including me or really wanting to see me at all (I asked Mom when I knew in OCTOBER MIND YOU that my sister wa planning to see my brother and stay over, couldn’t they stay somewhere halfway so I could be included,), I got an airy “It has to work for everyone” from Mom.. whereupon I said I think what you MEAN to say it it has to work for BETH.. I ripped my sister a new one finally, in an email reply back and told her how hurt I was at continually being excluded, along with some other stuff that had happened over the years.. Know what I got back? “I am sorry you feel that way. ” and some crap about how they all ‘love me and want me to be happy.’ Done with them.. And it happens all the time to me.. I get tremendously hurt over it.. it’s so painful.. Wish I had a close nice family who wanted me around and some nice friends.. I do not know what the answer is.. Thank you for letting me vent. It’s been a hard day at work.

  9. My big general compassion to all who feel ostracized by someone. Most of time, I don’t even know whether am ostracized. I just know that people often just ignore received texts after reading them. I don’t do it. My one friend has texted me to not expect his replies anymore. He has told that it’s abusive how I demand replies and that I want it only my way, and that he doesn’t care about my drama. I would like to ask what exactly felt abusive to him. I’ve even tried to ask, before him rejecting me. But what a point to text again if that human has excluded me? Am not guilty for not reading minds. An admin of one FB group has accepted him as a friend and rejected me. She has told that I want too much if I want replies from people. Now, regarding that male friend: his mom calls herself a therapist. But I haven’t heard from her since summer. Tried to text her few times. Finally asked other friend to text her. Nothing. Then asked him to ask that male friend, and he has told that that male friend has told that his mom doesn’t want to talk with me. If they didn’t lie, it hurts. Though I don’t even know whether she has even received any of my texts to her. I don’t want to say their names. I just want to say that I don’t need anyone’s sorries. I just don’t know how to trust them. I don’t want to seem a chaser or a stalker. So I don’t text 1st usually. I worry whether people receive my texts, but am usually afraid to just text again or to even open their timelines. As never know who ghosts me and can take it as me chasing them. So I rather just try to reply on each received text.

  10. I have been wrestling with these feelings myself on and off throughout my life. From a very early age I can remember a feeling of desperation to ‘belong’. The anxiety of it plagued me during my childhood, adolescence, and even now in my adulthood. I could never pinpoint why I felt it, and as a result I am afraid that I became the girl/woman that ‘tries too hard’ to fit in with others. Part of me wondered if it was because I was an only child, another part wondered if it was because I was the product of a broken home, etc. (at age 5 I was astounded to learn that real mommies and daddies lived together in a house, not just on t.v. because my parents divorced when I was 2)

    Throughout my childhood I asked my mother again, and again why she divorced my father. The answer was always the same; he was an alcoholic. Finally at the age of 40, I asked my mother again. My father had passed 3 years prior and I was trying to put some unresolved feelings about him to rest. Consequently at the same time, I was entertaining the thought of leaving my husband whom I had been married to for 18 years, (at that time…we are still together 4 years later and I am still wrestling with it) and was looking to her for some guidance.

    I finally asked her what the last straw was for her. What was the tipping point? I expected that his drinking, inability to keep a job, etc. had finally worn her down to the point of her love for him being worn away over time. What I got was very different. For 8 long years my mother had spent her time most nights driving around searching for him, and praying that he hadn’t killed someone, or himself after a night at the bar. She was exhausted, and at that time the only one employed as he had once again been laid-off from his sheet metal job with the local union. (this was 1973) They had just purchased a large, beautiful home in a prominent, and sought after part of town. She worked 3 part time jobs to be able to make the mortgage, and put food in our bellies. At this time I was 4 months old. Old enough to barely know how to roll over, and maintain a sitting position on my own.

    These jobs had different schedules, and she worked 7 days a week. Sometimes the schedules of these jobs over-lapped each other, and she worked all 3 in the same day. These were days she was gone 14-18 hours. One day she got up knowing that it would be a 16-18 hour day for her. She tended to me, and said that she felt guilty that they couldn’t afford a babysitter. She had strong misgivings about leaving me with my father, but he was home, and he was free, and she felt that she had no choice. To prepare for the day she put changing supplies out and in reach of the changing table, prepped bottles, baby cereal, baby food, and extra outfits for me and left him a note regarding each. When she returned home 18 hours later, she found him passed out, and me – still in my crib…screaming hoarsely…red faced, and S T A N D I N G UP, my fists wrapped around the spindles of my crib. My diaper had never been changed, I hadn’t been fed, or had any of the bottles, and all of her careful preparations of supplies had been left untouched. She threw him out that very night, and promptly filed for divorce the next day.

    Learning that was hard, but it also helped me to identify the source of my desperate attempts to be included. To be invited to the birthday party, to be invited to the weekend kegers as a teenager, to be included in the private jokes, to not be the friend you call when there was no one else available, etc, etc. It was powerful…but my feelings of being ostracized have not abated.

    Just this week, I confronted a friend as to why I was never included in the girl’s nights anymore, etc. Had I done something? Had the grief of my 17 year old daughter (that suffers from borderline personality disorder) running away a month before her 18th birthday made me too hard to be around? Was I the person that everyone was now avoiding, but that no one had the balls to tell why? The answers I got were the usual; “don’t take it personally”, “we’re all busy, and life is impulsive sometimes intentions/plans fall through”, “you just aren’t the first person to pop into my head”, “I am a selfish creature, I only look out for myself”…but no real answer to any of my questions. It sucks. I’m 44 next week…and still feel like this. *sigh*

    I also suffer from adult ADHD, PTSD, abandonment issues (obviously), daddy issues (obviously), and clinical depression. I now wonder if what happened to me as a baby had anything to do with triggering a psychological, and physical response in my brain to bring about these maladies? Was my brain so deprived from not having regular doses of serotonin, and dopamine from itself that it regulated itself to release less? Was the prolonged exposure to anxiety, and stress enough to ‘break’ me?

    (what happened to me as a baby would be the beginning of a long line of hard stuff, and lots of disappointments, neglect, family psychological abuse from a grandmother, and my father, parentification, sexually abused at 13 by a stranger, and several social setbacks and disappointments at school, and on through my adulthood.)

    • Your story just made me burst into tears. I have a young daughter and to imagine that happening to any baby is just too much. Your mother did the best thing to get rid of your father. That shows how very much she loves you.

      I’m sorry that you have endured so much. I think that sometimes sensitive people (myself included) find ourselves in these situations of being excluded and we blame ourselves. We immediately look at the faults within us. But maybe our “friends” who are being exclusive are the ones with serious flaws and lacking any kindness and emotional intelligence. For some reason they pick up something different about us and for whatever reason (jealousy, power trip) they exclude us because it establishes a status quo and they can look like the bigger person. When in fact they are small and petty for being so horrible.

      Would you rather be alone and happy (or at least not sad) or always hanging onto friendships that bring you down? Find another place where you feel welcome and the girls nights.

  11. Came across this when searching about exclusion from FB groups. Heard about them, was always wondering what makes people to create alternative groups on the same topic/issue etc. I realise that sometimes it’s just a wish to have a group on your own terms. But I also acknowledge that sometimes it’s done by excluded members. I was excluded form a group couple of months ago, without warning. I didn’t do anything against group rules, i.e. I didn’t try to sell or promote anything. Not to be seen/caught as selling/promoting something to all group i PMd to one member who was in despair getting a proper diagnosis on NHS a short list of affordable private clinics. Then I just commented that I PMd her – as people do not always see messages from strangers. I didn’t see it coming. Yesterday I had incident on another group. All post there go past admin team and get approved – or not. Even though the rules forbid selling/promoting I posted a link to a heavily discounted food allergy test. I knew it may not be approved – but hoped the purpose of it would prevail. It was not approved – two days passed – so I was certain admin were not ok with it – and was ok about it. 2 days later there was a post addressing me – to let me know that my post was not approved because it was about sales. Forgot to mention – both groups are support groups for digestion related conditions. I objected – and was bashed badly, with quite few members taking admin side. Out of 2000 members only 1 stepped out to my defence, 2 more liked. The rest watched in silence. I was nearly kicked out – but will leave myself. Seen and experienced exclusion in may forms – it can be soul-destroying.

    • Tabulous- your story really reaonates with me. Why can’t I find friends that have had these types of experiences, I mean obviously we all exist… it’s just sad that I only find others that can relate online.. it would be so nice to have someone IRL to hang out with that understands… I feel so isolated.

  12. I often feel left out.. I think sometimes it has to do with my personality but even people who I’m comfortable with seem to like me less than others … it is so painful and hurtful … I just wish there was a way not to care because no matter how hard I try to be included I get excluded

    • I often feel that way too. When I was a child I felt that my sister who was a very social person was more well liked than me. If we shared the same friends more often than not I felt that they preferred her company over mine. More than once she even told me that they did. She once said “ Rebecca says I’m more fun to hang out with than you.” There was another time we were at a party it was a going away party that our “friends” threw for us. They would say “ We are going to miss you Kathleen………..and Bronwyn.” They threw in my name as if I am no more than an after thought. She let me know it too. We moved to Leduc Alberta soon after that party and we were on a road trip to Nordegg in the moutains. A good chunk of the way there she teased me about how they were never my friends and how they added in my name after hers like as if I was nothing. I was crying my eyes out because I was deeply hurt by what she had said, although I was in a lot of pain and it was clear that I was, she mercilessly continued to make fun of me. Another time I was telling her about my love of fashion and how I fun it is to pick out outfits and she said” notice how you talk about fashion but you don’t have any friends? I would much rather be ugly and have friends than be pretty than have no friends.”

      I have been battling with feeling of social isolation and loneliness for a very long time and to this day I still feel the sting of it from time to time. When I was in high school I went through a period of extreme depression where I didn’t feel like I had the strength to carry on. I seriously considered self harm. One night I was thinking of doing something to hurt myself like swallowing pills. I was crying for a while and then my dog Brighton who was a very sweet and emphatic boy saw I was in deep sorrow and cuddled with me and I cried over his shoulder. Brighton saved me from self harm that night.

      • Hi BW
        I totally understand your situation.
        I’m a grown adult now and also am in a similar situation. My sister and I grew up together and Had a friend who lived next door. We all got married and had children but we did not see her for a few years when the children were small. During that time I was close to my sister and her family.
        In the last few years my sister came into contact with her, after the friend got divorced, and now are Inseparable. We are all close in age but they exclude me from their friendship. They go out together and even include others and I feel so left out and lonely. I had told my sister a few years ago that I wish that I was included in their outings as I have no other friends. Thinking back that’s when the exclusion really began.
        I can see there is an element of jealousy involved also. I was always the slim one, and have kept my figure, people tell my I look young for my age. They have both gained a lot of weight. My sister is abusive and passes nasty comments. I like to dress nicely but my sister will say “ look at the way you walk, is it just because you are slim, I hope you get fat one day” . I know they both find it hard to lose weight and want to, but it’s not a situation I have any control over.
        I am married into a wealthy family, ( which is probably part of their jealousy issue as her husband lost money on failed business ) my husband is a only son. Good man but should never had married him ,went out with him and due to parents being old fashioned said I should not drop him as he was such a good catch and my reputation would be ruined. My parents were strict, and basically didn’t let me out on my own, we only socialised with they’re friends. ( husband was son of their friend) Long story short, not happily married, too scared to separate.
        My son is single and moved overseas and I have no other family or friends. My sister or her family only visit when I do Christmas or Easter dinner. They ever drop by anymore as they are too buy with their family and friends. I have invited old acquaintances out but they are already in their own established social set, it’s hard to break in. I go to a local club to do excercise classes but the women are seniors and 70 plus. Women my age are still working or busy with their grandchildren and families.

        Even my son rings his dad to chat, not me . I can’t stop crying. I’m too young to be like this. I want to go out and enjoy life . For years I’ve been going out alone, but am amongst a crowd alone. Everyone is in groups. A few people notice and have said “ here you are alone again, good on you, I admire your courage to get out on your own “ …but they don’t invite me to hand out.

  13. I have a good number of friends but I still feel so upset when I feel excluded. I am part of a group for one of my son’s sports activities and I tend to feel excluded from the people who run this group. Although I have other friends I can’t help feeling blue/down/depressed when I feel excluded from these people. On a logical level it makes no sense and should not matter if these people do not see me as a friend but it does matter to me. This article helps explain these feelings.

    I wish I could find a way to not care whether or not I am part of the “in” crowd with this group. They mean no harm, they are just naturally friends and are not specifically trying to exclude me. But it hurts every time.

  14. I experience these SAME feelings quite often these past few years…I’ve had decent and plentiful friendships all my life and felt blessed. I was also not very understanding of lonely people. Well I get it now… I’m 58 and those friendships have dwindled through the years…some losses of friends with mental illnesses, some loss due to the painful decision to have to get out of some unhealthy patterns, friends having kids (we don’t) and now grandkids…I miss my friends but realistically, we have grown into different people and some of them have become so strange in these later years….sigh** I suppose I have too! The saying ‘good friends are hard to find’ always made me wonder but I understand it now. One thing I’ve noticed is I cannot bear to see people lonely. Never have been comfortable with that and now that I have experienced the pain of being excluded (even after telling a lifelong ‘friend’ I would love to join in to go to our reunion as we have done for the last thirty years yet was still excluded) I now know why I instinctually had such a sympathetic heart to it. It HURTS!! Perhaps I will take some ibuprofen and see if it really does lessen the pain effects as the research shows… ;).
    I do know there are a lot of lovely people out there to meet and it is time to build some resilience and move along. I just wish for connectedness for everyone really. But never give up and never sell yourself short – be the good company you seek and love yourself well. Not easy and Good practice! And let’s never be the ones to put others on the out like that, yes?? xoxo

  15. Well tonight I am at my sadest. I have been excluded from celebrating a close friends 60th overseas. And to add to it was not told by the friends but by their sister in law. When asked anything planned coming still not informed until asked specifically. My close friend wants me to be ok with it even though hurt. But tonight hurts the most as they all fly out tomorrow. I am at such a loss.

  16. There were plenty of times as a young child when choosing to be alone and to be comfortable more with strangers and animals than with family was no doubt the healthest way to respond. Growing older and now much older I do regret that keeping my distance has kept me distant and that I’m more at home observing those I love than joining in. And, of course, the very “adult experience” of having your kids walk you to the mirror like “Don Quixte” to remind you of all your failings also heightens the pain of exclusion; exclusion from being understood, standing and looking across a chasm of unrequited love.

    Oh well, the other side of that coin is that everything gets better and even beautiful as you learn to monitor your feelings and find healthy ways to make you feel better living in the present; like laughter, music … music especially and in my case an affinity for a sport, free-diving, where being underwater feels like dancing.

  17. I have recently found out (by chance) that earlier this year my elder sister and brother took a holiday to India together and chose not to let me know.

    Even though I am not particularly close to them anymore, (due to their unkind behaviour to me since our parents passed away) they always make a point of sending me a postcard when they are on vacation, however it is now clear that on this occasion why they didn’t – they purposefully didn’t want me to know. I had to press myself to read the article my sister had written about their adventure which is how I discovered they’d had made this trip which included the line “…. the experience left us both with enchanting memories that will last a lifetime” – I actually feel sick reliving this sentence – the feeling of being excluded/unwanted/not part of my family like this will affect me “a lifetime”.

    I was so upset by the discovery (which to this day has made me quite ill physically and mentally) that I was so unimportant to them – the fact that they could secretly plan a special holiday with each other and not let me know was like a knife running through my stomach. How could their conscience not have pricked them? They clearly were confident enough that I would never find out/know – but why?

    Background: I have pretty much been the ‘black sheep’ of the family since I was born and suffered mental bullying at the hands of my brother from the age of 2 to 18. My relationship was much closer/healthier with my sister, however looking back, more of a ‘controlling’ one by her rather than a protective one. When she had her first child she became far less interested in me (25 years ago). I don’t have children.

    My parents died some years back which changed me forever (particularly the loss of my father whom I was very close to) and I believed (in hindsight rather naively) that their passing would bring us as syblings closer together – it transpires that this void has merely strengthened their bond with each other over time and ostracised me – perhaps its because they are closer in age and intellectually superior as they went to university and I didn’t that they are so ‘in-tune’ and also they both have children. We now rarely see or hear from each other – the odd greeting card that’s it. I have gone into lock down.

    The reason I am publishing this highly personal ‘burden’ is because I am living with the question every day since I found out whether to challenge them about it and if I do – how? To be honest I could not care less they went to India but its the principle. I have toyed with the ‘poison pen’ letter approach, ‘ subtle’ approach , ’embarrass them’ approach, ‘drop a hint’ approach e.g. giving them an opportunity to tell me where they went and I just keep coming up against a brick wall – why should I give them the satisfaction that I am upset?

    Perhaps someone out there can shed some fresh light on my predicament?

  18. I have to a great extent had an opposite experience with my family. It has been my peers that I have had a lot of difficulty with. I spent a lot of time being bullied and harassed growing up and now I’ve lost both my parents. I’m 51 and constantly single. I don’t know how to progress from here. I’m feeling lonely and sad and can’t see why I should bother carrying on. My home life was the only thing that kept me going and now my home is empty.

  19. I have always noticed that a person is treated by the way they look, for instance if you are pleasing to the eye people will give you a chance to develop socially. But a ugly person is either ignored or made fun of. They are never given the chance to develop socially. It is a sad part of life,so if you fall into this group there are always a few people that will be your friend, or if you are lucky enough to be highly intelligent, or gifted with some can of talent you may be able to develop socially.People in general are disappointing, so do what you gotta to be happy even if it means hurting someone else now and than, cursing or swearing is fine, do not let the hurt of rejection build up, release it and you will fell better,remember you are special.

  20. I need help! I’m 50 years old and felt I never had a voice when I was a child and always left out of very family activity. Now that I’m older and married and have a child of my own. Which i thought when I had a family of my own the ostracizing would stop. But it still continues, for example:My uncle just had a kidney transplant and I was never notified that he was in the hospital,instead my sibling was notified and she called to see if I was notified. She just wanted to know if I was included by the family notification and it seems to make her happy that it wasn’t me they contacted. My sibling made sure that she contact me to make it known that she was called personally. I don’t know why she does that? It seem she wants me to feel ostracized,it s to make her happy. Please someone give so advice on how to deal with this type of hurt. I’ve done nothing for this type of treatment. I’m at the point that I need to heal and except that I don’t have a loving family and move on.

  21. I also feel the hurt and the anger that others have been posted. My sister in law and her 2 daughters in particular believe they are very intelligent, caring and have it all together. Sister in law says I’m always invited, make sure you stop over for Christmas or whatever holiday it may be. My daughter and I go and barely get acknowledged. It’s kind of like school you hang around the ones you like the most. My brother has more common sensed then all of them put together and he is not a social kind of guy. So I have not gone the past 2 gatherings. I would really like to tell them how I feel, and but for my brother I would.I really don’t have any friend either and rather not have family that treats me and my daughter so inconsiderately!

    • I can relate .. I was the baby of the family with a very strong mother.. I seemed to of been always left out of things as the adults talked and left to my own devices.. I often would just go and play on my own and grew up like an only child . I felt very lonely and felt like my mother was the only one that cared about me.. As an adult I have never married. I get along with people in my work life but my private life us a mess. I am lonely and I always feel like I am watching other people living their lives.

  22. I’m a complete mess now going in to my 6th year of being deliberately ostracised by my WHOLE FAMILY incl children and grandchildren, brothers, nieces, nephews and even my father without ANY EXPLANATION WHATSOEVER!!
    The pain in my chest is constant, I’m always either fighting back tears or cry uncontrollably whether at home or shopping for one.
    I’ve lost so many social skills and haven’t been physically touched by another human in the form of a cuddle or even an understanding hand on my arm.
    To live with the knowledge that NO ONE would even miss me if I were to
    go missing or simply died here alone at home surpasses all the aching pain of deliberate exclusion to EVERY FAMILY GATHERING or special event. I’m not missed at Christmas and with 5 birthdays and Mothers Day passing now with no contact, I’m becoming unable to adequately take care of my home, my affairs, paperwork, finances ect and now even myself!

    I feel worthless, useless, detached, unimportant and of course. unloved.

    NOTHING will ever be the same, I’m deeply depressed, have lost all of my confidence and there not a hint of that ‘bubbly and vivacious girl’ left!

    They’ve killed me, I’m a walking shell of a once, happy, funny and loving human being.

    This pain is unbearable! 💔

  23. my family excludes me often. they are all on a ski trip this week and failed to invite me for the third year even though i made my wishes for inclusion very clear last year. i feel really sad and i wonder why i can’t be loved as i am. there is such a force for conformity of thought and behavior that i would have to be inauthentic to belong. why can’t we just agree to disagree. so sadly i am trying to walk away from where I’m not wanted.

    thanks everyone for listening and sharing your stories. it helps to know that i am not struggling alone. looking for my new tribe.

  24. Reading all these posts has made me feel sad and dispirited – why do close family and friends treat each other like this, it makes no sense! I have always blamed myself when things have went wrong with any relationship which in turn compounds my despair – I am going to try and work on caring for myself, for as they say, if you don’t love yourself how can you love anyone else. We cannot change how others behave towards us but we can change our reaction to it – it won’t be easy but maybe small steps towards making our lives as productive/enjoyable as we can will help us to move forward to a happier future.

  25. I agree that after years if feeling left out, its better to give up trying to have deep relationships. Be friendly at work in stores etc, but dont extend yourself unless someone does it toward you, get a loving pet, have hobbies you enjoy, spend time in nature, volunteer, the hurt just gets to much if you keep allowing it, sadly most people are shallow cruel and backstabbing, as well as sometimes envious which I have been the victim if, best of luck to all.

  26. Ostracism is soul destroying, as I sit here contemplating my own personal experiences I feel your pain. The pain is so delibitating it makes you want sink into the depths of the earth and quite frankly disappear. I am tired of the bullies and the nassasistic personalities, something that is very poignant within my own family.
    Last Easter I was invited to a camping trip, something I planned with a cousin for over 3 weeks. The day arrived for me to join them, and after several phone calls and no one answering I was eventually sent a text message saying how they forgot that I was coming and that there is no room. When I challenged my cousin about this I was very rudely told that I should have organised my own space. A space by myself where I could not camp with them. Suffice to say, I didn’t go. Not only did they ostrisice me but my six year old boy was devastated by this news that we couldn’t go camping with his cousins. I believe that their actions toward me was the result of another family member who 2 years ago decided to spread nasty rumers about me and how she apparently saw me kissing her husband. I find it very hard to understand why I am the one that is is ostracised When I am not the one spreading nasty rumers. This girls actions has destroyed friendships and relationships. A little while ago another cousin decided to send a text message to another family member about how
    Much of a f**khead I am. This family member was quite happy to share this text message with me. I think about this comment and just wonder what the hell I ever did to deserve that. Heartbreaking, soul destroying. I’m a 42 single mum and feel very alone. Lost and left out.
    To all the people out there that are treated with contempt and dislike, I hope they never have to feel the pain that their ostracism brings.

  27. Oh wow, reading these comments makes me sad, but yet comforted somehow because for the first time in a long time I realize I’m not alone in these feelings. I was always an odd child because I adored sci-fi, Star Wars, and superheroes. I liked to be outside playing with the boys and not doing girlie-girl things. But when I did finally want to try to belong somewhere, the girls would go out of the their way to be mean and it was tough. After a while, an introvert quits trying, when I would try to talk to my mother she would blame me somehow. Oh, and I was adopted as a baby and when I wasn’t what my mother wanted, I was just in the way until I left at 18. I also tried to contact my birth mother and found out she died of brain cancer 6 months before I found her. I did visit with her sister on-line and found out I have a half-sister, tried contacting her thinking that would be a great opportunity because I never had much for family, she also rejected me, won’t even attempt to speak to me and I did nothing. The sister told the rest of the family about me and NONE of them have made any attempt to contact me, friend me on FB, something….anything………and then I find out my mother was pregnant with me and single, but head over heels with the father, the father decided he liked her, but didn’t love her so she couldn’t bear to keep me and gave me up. But then, 6 years later, she gets pregnant by a different guy, decides to keep that one and moves to another state. She never married. So I wasn’t good enough to keep but the other one was and that one rejects me too. My daughter is now dealing with the same crap in school where two girls in two different groups just decided one day they don’t like her, so she moved to a different group and now the one in that group is trying to push her out. Honestly, I’m just so tired of the rejection from family, so-called friends and now watching my daughter try to cope with it. People really suck.

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