Not “the shining,” but “the shunning.” I have written before regarding aspects of abuse and coping mechanisms. What I have not yet touched upon is the act of shunning as a form of abuse. In ancient times it would take something pretty drastic to have the community shun you. Something along the lines of adultery or murder would do the trick. If you were not put to death you were treated like you were dead. Worse yet, you would be treated like you had never existed. This was a community’s way of exiling folks whose actions were considered to be heinous. It was about maintaining the safety of the community. But it was also about maintaining the status quo and having control over those who did not toe the line.
Now, when I was growing up I had a sister who, bless her heart, felt that she was the matriarch of the family and acted like it. I felt it was up to everyone else to put her in her place and not entertain her power trips. But most people just humored her, at the expense of “someone else” who was in trouble. As much as I loved my sister, I can seriously and whole heartedly acknowledge that she was a bit of an opinionated battle axe. I could, however, see through her armored facade right down to the marshmallow heart that she had beating in her chest cavity. So although I would not necessarily change her mind regarding whomever she had a mad on for that day, I would speak to her in ways that would melt her marshmallow heart and she would find herself unable to bend my will to her own. But the thing is that she would use the technique of shunning people and disowning them from the entire family. Not cool. Especially when the rest of the family was not even consulted regarding this and was simply expected to accept the fact that so-and-so was no longer a part of the family. This habit of shunning that she would put to use with the precision of a Ninja sword would piss me off to the greatest degree. So I would inform her that, despite her declaration, I would not be accommodating that form of abuse. This would anger her to no end because she realized that she could not control me. So instead of changing her ways, she chose to replace me with other cousins around my age. Suddenly she was not connecting with me the way we always would (lunches out, movie nights, and so on) and would instead do these things with my cousins. Did I feel hurt? Yes. But I also felt pity for her because she was then setting herself up for the loss of her baby brother. So instead of buckling to her demands and crawling to her to beg her forgiveness, I moved on and filled my time with others. After all, I had two other sisters, lots of friends and family, and I was emotionally well equipped to deal with someone not wanting to be around me. And even if I was completely alone, I happen to really enjoy my own company, so that would not have mattered to me one bit. Eventually it was she who reached out to connect. I took it slow, which frustrated her. But I was not going to be her target again and she had to earn some trust back, which, with me, is darn near impossible. So it went REALLY slowly.
Eventually, years later, she took exception to a boundary that I declared. And because she took exception to it, she was quite hurtful in how she lashed out at me. So my response was, “Careful there. You have a LOT more to lose than I do.” She pulled her horns in, took about three months to make adjustments, and then reached out again. I truly feel that one of the reasons I was born into the family that I was born into was to help teach the abusers within the family that they cannot and will not get away with their abuse. I would not allow myself to be controlled or manipulated and that would frustrate the heck out of them.
So what would happen to the ones who got shunned? First off, even as a child I could see this as an ultimate form of abuse. People would be rejected, dismissed and ignored. One might as well be dead if one is going to endure that. After all, that is what the one doing the shunning really wants. It is a form of psychological torture that has over the years led many people to actually killing themselves. I knew this. Intuitively I knew what the agenda was and what the end goal was, even if those who were shunning would not take responsibility for the outcome. SO I WOULD REACH OUT TO THOSE WHO WERE SHUNNED AND KEEP A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM, LETTING THEM KNOW THAT THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN LOVED BY ME AND WILL ALWAYS BE LOVED BY ME. I did not care if this meant that I joined their ranks of “the shunned.” As a child I would not stand for this type of thing, no matter the cost to me. And this is something that I continue to this day.
Now, I should mention here that shunning is not the same as, say, burning a bridge between yourself and an abuser. That is something that is often necessary for survival. But shunning is something that is implemented to control, manipulate and abuse another human being. So please do not get those two things confused. They are NOT the same in any way.
There are more subtle forms of shunning that should also be addressed. For example, have you ever given someone or had someone give you the “silent treatment”? That is a more subtle form of shunning. It is a form of abuse and manipulation. Whenever someone has done this to me I have chosen to enjoy the peace and quiet. This frustrates the hell out of them and eventually they change tactics. Sometimes it will be, “Okay, let’s talk.” Sometimes it will be gaslighting instead. What they choose will completely determine whether or not I work on it with them or just burn the bridge and wish them well on their way right out of my life.
Gaslighting (turning others against you or trying to consistently convince you that you are to blame for their abusive behavior) is also a form of shunning. They are not just shunning you from their reality, but they will try to get others to shun you from their reality as well. This is something that I like to lovingly refer to as “f^@#ed up evil.”
”If you don’t like it, there’s the door, use it,” is another form of shunning but in a way that the shunning has not actually happened, but has been implied as a very real possibility. When anyone has said this to me (and it has happened a few times) I have chosen the door. And when they try to get me to come back I will not even entertain the concept. Because, like everyone else in the world, I am much better off without manipulation, control and abuse in my life than I am with it.
My advice to those who have been shunned is this. Walk away and do not look back, even if it is a family member who is shunning you. You do not have to make nice or play any games to make others feel comfortable at any family gathering. And if anyone is going to pick on you at the family gathering, just leave. You do not have to emotionally entertain them. You are not obligated in any way to endure abuse. And you do not need to indulge their denial systems. You are NOT being overly sensitive. You are being emotionally intelligent. The fact that they cannot be emotionally intelligent is not your problem, no matter who it is, whether that be a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, sibling, child or whatever. You do not need to put up with shunning. It is rare, actually that one who has been shunned would actually be invited to a gathering, but it does happen. “Yes, Uncle Gary has shunned you, but you are expected to show up at the family reunion anyway.” Talk about a guilt trip designed for disaster! Do not attend. Repeat after me…DO NOT ATTEND. And if anyone asks, be perfectly frank about Uncle Gary’s abuse and that you have no time in your life for him or anyone who supports that behavior. I guarantee that if they care about you Uncle Gary will be served notice to not attend.
People often choose their own comfort over what is right and just. So let them be uncomfortable. Let then see how that feels. Let them make their own choices as to whether or not you are a part of their lives. Because if they choose wisely, they will enjoy the enrichment that comes for their connection with you. If they do not choose wisely, they will learn what it is like to deprive themselves of that enrichment. The choice is theirs. You simply need to honor what their choice is and live your life.