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Feeling "Excluded"

You are looking forward to meeting your friend for a relaxed run and good conversation.  You show up and see that she has brought another friend.  You tell yourself you should be happy to include others and so, act like it's fine.  The two of them start running a fast pace and begin talking about a project on which they are working.

A sudden grumpiness comes over you and you start thinking how your body isn't up for this and start wondering why you are even there.

There are so many unconscious should's in your mind that you don't even allow yourself to notice that you are feeling "excluded" (of course excluded isn't a feeling, but rather a complex experience of thoughts, feelings, and needs).  You hear yourself saying "I shouldn't be upset", "I should be fine to switch to a different running pace.  It's no big deal."  "I like this other friend; I should be happy to see her."  "I shouldn't be such a baby."  "I should be flexible."

Knowing that you're included equally and loved and accepted is pretty basic to your sense of well-being.  If integrating this understanding didn't happen for you growing up, then you likely find your sense of inclusion to be a tenuous thing.  Given this kind of wounding, most people choose one or two basic strategies to try to earn inclusion. 

Growing up in a family, where your parent(s) don't give you any consistent positive attention unless you are showing some special skill or ability or achieving something superior, you likely adopted the strategy of being a super achiever.

Though you couldn't articulate it as a four-year old, the message from your parent(s) was clear, "You must earn my love and attention." 

Another strategy is to win attention by high and volatile emotional expression and/or by being exceptionally beautiful and sexy.  If you have adopted this strategy, you may have been told many times that you are being over-dramatic.  But of course, it doesn't feel that way to you, because the expression of volatility has become so habitual, it seems authentic and unavoidable. 

Engaging either of these strategies blocks you from hearing the basic message that you so desperately need to integrate which is that belonging is your birth right.  And though, without your parents help, you didn't have the skills and power to realize and proclaim that when you were four years old, you can do that now with the support of people who care about you.

It starts with being able catch yourself when you go into the wounded trance of "I am excluded".  You can listen for things this trance state likes to say like:  "What am I even doing here?!"  "Those just aren't my kind of people."  "I need to get going, I have things to do."  "I can't afford to waste my time."  "I just don't belong with this group."  "They don't like me."

You can also watch for impulses to leave, to brag about your achievements, work harder, or get dramatic and seductive.

Once you catch yourself in the trance, you can do things in the moment to break out of the trance and move towards belonging.  In the example above about running, going on the assumption that you belong, you might have asked for a slower pace and to talk about something the three of you have in common.

Of course, going on the assumption that you belong is where all the work is. Although this is a subtle and complex healing path, a few basic practices can be helpful.  Underlying all of the practices that follow is, of course, a sense of compassion for yourself.

Learning that you belong might look like:

-collapsing into a mess of tears and seeing that others can stay present for it

-letting go of working to achieve or create something in particular groups or situations

-allowing yourself to follow rather than lead

-asking others to express how you are important to them

-giving others an opportunity to love you when you are not doing, being, or looking special in any way

-choosing to be with groups that have the emotional capacity to directly express caring and affection and stay present for difficulty

-focusing on how you are similar to others rather than only different

-internally repeating to yourself that you belong when you are feeling anxious about it

-pushing yourself to stay engaged even when you have the impulse to leave or shut down

-acting as if you belong, even when you imagine you don't

-helping to create a sense of belonging for others

Take a moment now and notice if there is any particular situation in your life where the exclusion trance comes up in an obvious way.  Choose one or two of the practices above to try out the next time you are in that situation.

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4 Responses

  1. Jan 19, 2012

    Thanks LaShelle,
    I love exploring the topic of belonging. I could so easily see me having a similar dialog if that situation. I thought of another choice I would like to practice in that setting.

    To authentically express: firstly making an observation, "I was looking forward to meeting you (your friend) and I was surprised to see...... (Of course this could be processed and expressed as well.) ...and right now for me, the two of you are running at a fast pace and are talking about a project that doesn't 'include' me. I am feeling 'a bit out of it' (lonely) and would like to be included. I wonder if either of you have an idea how to include me and get what both you want? Something that would work for all three of us?

  2. Jan 20, 2012

    Another great gem. Thanks so much for the wisdom and discernment it takes in peeling these issues apart to see what's really going on. I have so much to learn in the art of compassionate communication! Thanks for your work...

  3. Jan 20, 2012

    Really beautiful. Good for me to read as someone who usually feels the opposite of not belonging. It's easy to forget that some folks don't feel like they "fit in" because they are usually so quiet and in the back ground. This gem reminds me to check my own behavior in these situations and be more aware, less exclusive and open to other kinds of people and personalities.

  4. Jan 24, 2012

    Thanks Chris, I am really touched by your ability to integrate this from the other perspective. As someone who often struggles with belonging I am warmed by your committment.

    Thanks too Taylor for the example, the more the better.

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