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.