Just recently I was in a counselor’s office to discuss my issues with shyness. My question: why is it that I have trouble making and keeping friends, and why is it that I fail to have a love life? Instead of answering my questions, the counselor attempts to bring me to examine my thoughts and experiences in light of the present-moment experience, the psychologizing of the old Buddhist practice of mindfulness. That is well and good, I expect such an entrenched problem not to have easy answers. And in a growing self-awareness, I am beginning to see a recurring pattern that has been central to my life all along.
All creatures naturally seek inclusion in some form of community. This is evident both in the animal kingdom and amongst human beings, and as such is very much a biological trait. Exclusion from connection within the species has been thoroughly examined and shown to be detrimental. I would define inclusive connection as non-abusive, for an abusive connection is more detrimental than total exclusion.
School is a very powerful and formative time for a child’s behaviour and temperament. At the beginning of my high school experience I suffered from exclusion of my peers, who one day decided that I was no longer worthy of inclusion. The effect seemed to spiral amongst the student population, to where I became an object of ridicule. In some sense, this was a karmic response to the ridicule that I poured on to others when I enjoyed inclusion. Yet it seemed to be a defining moment where I became an ongoing member of The Exclusion.
How this relates to the blog is in how this history came to be a major constraint towards my conversion to Christianity. Jesus Christ and the community of his followers became very attractive to me, both sitting in the included/excluded paradigm. Jesus included the excluded; God loves the outcast. I was swept up in the joy of inclusion. Yet along the way I felt a nagging sense of lack – where is the holiness and love as featured in the scriptures? That led me on the quest for spiritual growth, involving a very fascinating path of discovery in the world of Christian faith. For some reason, however, I could not break my pattern of exclusion. I was always on the outer, and my constant level of discontent meant that I could never stay put in any one situation for long. In these days there was not a consideration of shyness, this did not occur to me, even though I was missing out on the companionships that most (within The Inclusion) experienced.
Being of The Exclusion seems to have had one desirable benefit – a never-ending mode of questioning and critique, which eventually led to my self-imposed exclusion of regular church involvement. Yet it comes with a price of awkwardness in relationships. In class the other day I was interacting with a girl next to me who was a rather flamboyant character, and I could barely say anything of note to her. To me, having regular conversation and interaction has become something of rarity – the only conversation I carry on at length is the one in my head.
I don’t know if I’m merely simplifying things too much here by categorizing into inclusion/exclusion, but it does seem to make sense that a pattern of exclusion is evident in my life, that it has had some benefit, but has been a major cause of a sense of loneliness and isolation.