I am hesitating to write about this, let alone publish it for the world to see. And yet, it is contributing to pain not only in my own life. I also see it in other people’s lives and i want to share it to start a discussion.

There are several groups of people who i have tried to connect with deeply here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And for some reason, i seem to be unable to do it. Refusing to believe my usual conclusion – there must be something wrong with me – i have begun to wonder if there is another psychological phenomena at play: In-group and out-groups. Based on my observations, it seems like there is some sort of in-group – people who talk similarly, dress similarly, enjoy the same events – and i just can’t figure out how to get in.

What makes this especially troubling is that the people i have in mind are teaching nonviolence! I am guessing that they are not aware of how excruciatingly painful it is to not be able to get in. It’s as if there’s a secret handshake – and i just don’t know it.

I have noticed two reactions in myself to this: I am seriously considering leaving the area and i am hesitating leaving the area because the voice “there’s something wrong with me” gets fed by this situation – big time. I know that this, too, is a psychological dynamic: If there’s something wrong with me, i am in control again because i can change whatever is wrong with me (although what that something is eludes me but if i ruminate hard enough on it, i’ll figure it out! Those of you who know something about depression will recognize this as a sure way to get into depression).

And there’s also another consequence: It takes way more energy to do anything because i don’t have support. And i see the in-group people supporting each other. Yes, i’ve reached out and asked for support and only got silence in return… Confusing and painful.

Why am i mentioning all this? Well, first, i want to speak my pain, verbalize what has been eaten at me. More importantly, though, i want to raise awareness about this phenomenon and encourage others who have experienced similar things to speak out. If there are indeed in-groups and out-groups in those “alternative cultures,” we need to become aware of it and actively counteract it. Otherwise we are losing integrity. And we won’t be able to reach out to other people if we inadvertently reject them when they try to get in. So, i am using my personal experience as an example in the hopes to spur on a larger discussion.

Side-note: Of course there could be less troubling reasons for this phenomenon. Geography is one that comes to mind. I seem to live further away from the alternative culture centers. Also, i haven’t been very active recently due to the undertreated hypothyroidism – and there certainly is an “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon. I am sure there are other more innocent reasons. Again, though, i would prefer that this post spur on a critical look at how we interact with those different than us to break down anything that could be perceived as in-group behavior – because it’s counterproductive.

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In-Groups — 6 Comments

  1. To add something more: i, too, have felt this kind of snubbing, also by people who ‘teach and preach’ healing, ethics, and yes, nonviolent communication, as well.

    I have also known not a few additional people who have suffered from similar experiences of exclusion despite their active and generous participation in workshops, retreats and other events in these venues. They are extremely personable individuals, polite and especially thoughtful. So, there is no objective reason or justification for the leaders and active personalities and their friends to snub or ignore us. In fact, i have even heard several of these ‘in’ people admit they’ve been told this and they werent’ at all aware. …………so, yes, we need to keep bringing this to light until there is a change for the better. In particular for those who espouse a world that WORKS FOR EVERYBODY. It is time for authenticity, humility and true connection.

  2. “What makes this especially troubling is that the people i have in mind are teaching nonviolence! I am guessing that they are not aware of how excruciatingly painful it is to not be able to get in.”

    This excerpt from this post is especially troubling to me. NVC (nonviolent communication) in particular teach about the NEED TO BELONG…… and about EMPATHY and its centrality to all human relationships and to peaceful societies and loving connections.

    i’m so glad you posted this. it may help remind us all of what’s MOST important…….

  3. i feel alone a lot. it is different than lonely but i do . the older i get people, i drifted away others drifted and new people i soon find fault with or don;t match up . a lot of the time i feel im imposing on people. it is a difficult situation since people are social animals, for hundreds of thousands of years they needed others to just survive, even i childhood we need others. but now i dont need no one for that, if i had a job i could meet and socialisze with coworkers. so i make up different ways to ‘get out’ and socialize. but as soon as i leave them i think im’ alone. so i detect an emotional deficit to that feeling. like a hole that cant be filled. but most of the time i feel OK. but i think it is ok to be alone. but my feelings sometimes dont match up with that. i got to go now, but moving away doesn’t work cause the problem is within and we’lll take it with us. you might get lucky and land in a better environment. thanks for the sharing. maybe we can talk person to person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Francisco! My intention with this post was to spark a discussion about what i perceive as in-group behavior not so much about loneliness/solitude. Most of the time, i have a pretty good handle on dealing with it…

      I disagree with your assessment that “the problem is within.” First, i don’t think there is a problem. Most importantly, though, as i have pointed out before, we live in a hyper-individualized society, which isolates us by keeping us too busy to nourish our connections or celebrates the myth of independence. As long as we claim that experiencing isolation and loneliness is only an individual problem, we will not be able to address the social dimension of this.

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