Ostracism is the act of excluding or ignoring someone from a social group or situation. It can take many forms, such as being left out of a conversation, being rejected by peers, or being shunned by family members. Ostracism can have negative effects on the psychological and physical well-being of the target, such as lower self-esteem, increased stress, and reduced immune system functioning.

‚ÄúPain can be alleviated by morphine but the pain of social ostracism cannot be taken away.”

Derek Jarman

Consequences of ostracism

Ostracism can occur for various reasons, such as differences in opinions, beliefs, values, or behaviors. Sometimes, ostracism is used as a form of punishment or social control, to enforce norms and expectations. Other times, ostracism is unintentional or accidental, resulting from a lack of awareness or empathy. Regardless of the motive, ostracism can be perceived as a threat to one’s basic human needs for belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence.

Seeking social support 

Ostracism can be challenged and overcome by both the target and the source. The target can cope with ostracism by seeking social support from other sources, reaffirming their self-worth and identity, and engaging in activities that provide meaning and purpose. The source can reduce ostracism by becoming more aware of its consequences, expressing empathy and compassion, and including the target in positive interactions. Ostracism can also be prevented by fostering a culture of inclusion and respect, where diversity is valued and celebrated.

Coping mechanisms

How can we cope with ostracism? There are different strategies that people can use to deal with ostracism, depending on their goals and resources. Some strategies are aimed at restoring the threatened needs, such as seeking social support, affirming one’s self-worth, asserting one’s control, or finding meaning in life. Other strategies are aimed at reducing the pain of ostracism, such as distracting oneself, rationalizing the situation, or avoiding the source of ostracism.

Ostracism is a common and powerful phenomenon that can have profound effects on individuals and groups. It is important to understand its causes and consequences, as well as its potential solutions. By doing so, we can prevent or reduce the harm of ostracism and promote more positive and inclusive social interactions.

Seek social support
Learn to affirm yourself
Understand the causes