If you’ve been the subject of a group rejection- if you’ve been blackballed or gossiped about or unfairly pushed out of a group- what do you do?
We’re social beings. Being culled from the herd is freaking terrifying to the animal body of your small self. Group rejection in tribal days was almost certainly a death sentence. Even though we live in a commercial culture and can get by with paid services -and we might even know consciously that we’re not going to die from the rejection- it can certainly feel that way in the moment.
This talk was prompted by a call I received from someone who was unceremoniously and systematically kicked out of a group due to the persuasion and misrepresentations of a more powerful and wealthier insider in that group- with no apparent way to appeal the decision. Now, she loved that group- she’d been a long time fan and active member. Her pain and her anger at the unfairness of this situation was as real as any physical injury could have been.
When people experience something like this, they report a sense of being powerless, a sense of being angry, a sense of being vulnerable. They express fear around what might happen next. These feelings are compounded with seemingly invisible problems, such as invisible attacks, gossip, blackballing or passive aggressive behavior- where you don’t know exactly like what the scenario is, what the landscape is that you are fighting. You are tilting at invisible windmills, and don’t know where to turn.
What do you do?
Human gossip, or other ways of communicating that avoid resolving problems directly, are the result of both the individual’s undeveloped capacities or lack of desire to do conflict resolution, or a community culture that lacks a direct way of confronting a problem. We don’t teach non-violent communication or how to solve conflicts or problems very well; these backdoor and sideways communication systems so that people don’t have to be accountable to the difficulty that they are having with another person.
1. Look at yourself
The first thing to do is a rich personal investigation. If you find you are the subject of gossip or social rejection or blackballing on any level the first inquiry needs to be with your own self: is there something you need to do to make amends? Is there something that you have done? If you can go direct to the person who is the initiator of this problem then absolutely do that- if you can find a trusted ally to sit with both of you absolutely, then absolutely do that. Of course that is not always possible.
2. Gather your Allies
Warm Blanket Friends
If the issue can’t be resolved directly, and you find yourself ostracized, you need coping strategies. A core aspect of this is to gather your allies. You gather the people around you who know you and know you deeply and know your character, the people who will be there no matter what. The first way you use them is just as a warm blanket, a sort of a virtual hug, you don’t talk about the subject, you just enjoy their company, you go for walks, you do projects together, you cook together, you go to lunch, you do whatever it is usually do with those people and you just feel their love and support.
You can also gather your allies virtually. Here is a great visualization practice that I did many years ago with Hareesh Wallis. It’s part of a larger practice of learning to surrender. Picture, arrayed in front of you, gazing at you with kindness, an arrangement of blessing beings. It can be spiritual teachers (like Jesus or Mother Mary or Krishna) but it can also be your first grade teacher or your grandmother, or anybody who has ever looked at you with unconditional love and acceptance. You create this visualization of those beings and forces and people who are always in your corner or have been in your corner at some point in your life and magnified you. This could also be done physically in the form of a collection of images. What I am saying is that your allies don’t have to be just really physical people near you right now, they can also be this virtual blessing mandala.
Middle of the Night Touchstones
Then you want to get one or two people who are your middle of the night people and you go to them and you say,”I am suffering, this situation is causing me suffering and I need help and I wonder if for a time being you will be that person for me, will you be the person that I can call in the middle of the night until the time comes that this is all worked out and the suffering is less acute?” And you will find that one or two people who will be there for you is enough, because this situation isn’t something that you want to be broadcasting- you don’t want to magnify it in the world or amplify it in the world. Be selective about sharing the suffering around this and please maintain your dignity and please please please don’t put it on Facebook.
3. Self Care
The third thing if you find yourself in this social rejection situation is to do abundant, resonant, full-glory self-care. Yes, you go out there and you sweat harder and dance harder and walk in the woods more and love more and feed yourself better and read great materials and watch inspiring things and take extra times to sit because you as a strong and beloved person to your own self will be able to everyday switch the channel and all that other stuff even in the phase of this very difficult situation that we are talking about which is being the subject of social rejection, group rejection or isolation. Take care of yourself.
4. Zoom Out
Incidents like this can feel SO BIG, they can fill the entire frame of your day: you wake up and you are thinking about it, you go to sleep and you are thinking about it. It is just overwhelming – this subject or this group or this geography or this person is filling the frame! The only thing that you can do is zoom way out, like you are pulling back, until the subject at hand is a little speck or dot on the horizon.
The world is so vast and your gifts and your capacities are needed in so many places, there are so many places to serve. There are so many places to participate! When the particular place that you are getting this rejection vibe from is temporarily not accessible, just back off and find some other place to bring your love and talents. So, zoom out! The world is much bigger than you think when it is feeling small and attacking.
5. Trust the Long Arc
Finally, trust the long arc. Nothing that is happening in the immediate moment is generally reflective of what happens over time. Know that people show themselves over time. So this means that the people who are doling out their gossipy message or whatever it is- their true selves will show over time. I had so many people years later come back and make amends for something, haven’t you? You too, your presence- how you’ve show up for those you love, how you show up and do your work – that shows over time, too. So it might take five weeks, it could take five months, it could take five years, it could take a lifetime but know that who you are and the reality of that is going to shine through over time.
And then there’s the harder task….Where am I like that?
There is one other thing I want to say about this: if you’re the “mean girl”, if you are the person who has the tendency to gossip or to blackball or doesn’t go direct to someone when you have something that needs to be said- then you need to know first hand how damaging how that is. I understand that this behavior comes out of fear (or a love for drama) and that it is a lot easier to say things behind people’s back or do things that don’t engender direct conflict. This is very damaging to the fabric of the social trust that we weave together. The skill set you need to develop is around being able to go into a conflict situation and hold your core, hold your dignity, speak from that strength, not be emotional and reactive- but just stay there and sit in the fire of your own discomfort and work something out with another person. There are plenty of places to learn how to do this. If there is a job or money involved where this sort of gossip or blackballing or rejection is happening and it is professional you might need some more strategy, you might need some more strategic planting of information and things like that.
To recap: we are social beings, we can feel incredibly powerless and attacked when someone targets us and we are carved out from the group. The answer to that is to personally investigate our own role in it, make amends if needed and go through mediation directly with that person. If that is not possible. and even if it is possible, follow this protocol: gather your allies, take care of yourself, zoom out from your current situation (geographically, topically, socially), and to trust the long arc that everything will show up over time.
And when it gets too hot – then you have these three tools and techniques we talked about in PART 1 to change your mental frame in a moment: switch the channel, open your heart and come into the now.