The Pain of Being Ostracized

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My best friend and I work together. Her sister also works with us.

Her family liked her first husband better than the guy she just married. None of her family came to her wedding or bridal shower.

Her sister also got people at work to ostracize her.Our co-workers hardly talk with my friend and don’t invite her anywhere.

This happened two years ago and my friend can’t get over it. She wants these awful people to like her. I told her she’s worth more than this.

I don’t understand. She’s depressed and won’t find new friends. What now?


Frustrated Friend

Dear Friend,

One of the most fundamental needs we have is to feel like we belong. Unfortunately, many families have the least compassion for another family member.

Kipling D. Williams, a professor of psychological sciences, recently did studies on this topic and said, “Shunning is an act of control and aggression, with powerful consequences.

“Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying that doesn’t leave bruises, and therefore we often underestimate its impact,” he said. “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.”

Betrayal within a family is most challenging. Our Triangle of Triumph ™ may help:

  1. Being a victim requires grieving the fact that you are actually a victim. Contrary to many who believe people become victims because they’re seeking attention, this is not true. Why would anyone want the pain of being rejected? It means going through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. She may need professional help to deal with this problem and to help her make the vital decision to not stay a victim.
  2. Survival means defining yourself and not letting others define you. This next step can’t happen without taking actions steps to find a new and stronger you. When a victim, like your friend, can define herself as a woman who has civility (care, consideration, and courtesy for others), confidence, courage, creativity (which means finding a new talent to share with new people), and communication with others who also reciprocate with civility back to her, she’ll be happy and learn to accept that she can’t change her co-workers or her family.
  3. Leadership, the final triangle section, means using her newfound tools to create joy and share it with others who do appreciate her goodness.

Please show her this column and tell her she’s worth it, again!


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri