A team chat the other day about the resurgence of board games became a deeper conversation way beyond winning and losing.
We found ourselves talking about belonging versus …..not.
One team member noted a horrible personal downward spiral at a recent family Monopoly game. Luck was not with him. Throw by throw his position in the game deteriorated.
The teasing (and low level swaggering) from family members became more intense. He said he began to understand what it might be like to belong to a marginalised resistance group. (In his excitement at recalling the feeling, he quoted the world’s number one terrorist organisation.)
And so the discussion about ‘not belonging’ began.
It appears that feeling excluded literally hurts.
Neuroscience suggests that the same part of the brain – the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex – is active when physical pain is experienced as when the social/emotional pain of being excluded or ostracised is felt. So the language we all use such as ‘hurt feelings’ is completely accurate.
This matters because social belonging is a fundamental psychological need.
Not only is a series of harmful psychological consequences caused by being rejected, this avalanche of pain is produced regardless of who did the rejecting. An individual or group that you truly despise? Their rejection of you will still sting.
Yet, responses to the process of ostracism are amazing.
More and stronger attempts are made to connect and co-operate to restore what is missing. Skills such as co-operation and reading social information improve. ‘Exclusion’ is not a simple casting choice.
The ramifications are huge, and generally underestimated.
The ability to include everyone begins to feel like one of the most important skills we never talk about.
Time to shake it all about.