When you feel ignored…

I hate feeling ignored. It hurts. But it rarely drives me crazy.

I interpret being ignored, usually, as a loud answer to the bid I was making for someone’s attention. I don’t tend to stew over it. Instead, I think about how often I ignore others, and how people ignoring me are likely acting in their best interest. Then I think about how I can realign myself with reality so I don’t stay in this pain.

I sometimes bid twice for someone’s attention, but if that doesn’t happen, I almost never bid a third time. I digest the important information conveyed by being ignored (usually I have over-estimated my importance to the other person), and then I move on. There are plenty of people who are happy to respond to me. So I take time to reconnect with myself, mourn if necessary, soothe myself, and when I am at peace, I move back into the world.

I don’t hold a grudge against those who ignore me, because I know how often I ignore others. When people who once ignored me get back in touch, I usually respond positively. Sometimes that has taken more than 15 years. At age 56, I don’t cling much.

One of the sickest feelings I’ve had is when I’ve butted into conversations where I’m not wanted. I don’t think that has happened to me often over the past five years, but on the rare occasions it has, it’s a reminder that I’ve lost touch with reality, usually with a delusional sense of my own importance.

The more isolated I get, the more delusional I get, while the more connected I get, the better I get.

When I feel bad, such as when I’m feeling ignored, I no longer try to distract myself from the bad feeling. It’s usually telling me I’ve suffered a loss. I no longer seek to drown my sadness by blissing out with grandiose fantasies. I try to understand what I’ve learned from the setback and I grieve. Within a few hours, or days, I’m back to enjoying life with the people who enjoy me.

Men’s Health says April 5, 2023:

If you communicate with people throughout the day—basically, if you’re human—then you, like me, sometimes find yourself “following up,” “circling back,” and generally coming to terms with being ignored, especially considering all the other instances in your life in which you might go unheard. (No response to a “let’s reconnect” DM to an old friend; crickets when you ask your landlord to renew your lease; no answer from the doctor’s office, even three days later; hello, barista?) At a certain point, feeling invisible can begin to take a toll on your mental health.

In fact, Kipling D. Williams, Ph.D., a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, found that being ignored literally hurts—it triggers the same part of the brain that registers physical pain. Technically, you’re experiencing ostracism. You may think of ostracism as the stuff of black sheep and outcasts, but it basically means you’re being excluded from group dynamics or otherwise feeling ignored. The person or people ignoring you might not even know they’re doing it. They may not have received your message, might have been on vacation, or just haven’t had time to respond. “It’s hard to know what they were thinking. But it doesn’t really matter. From your perspective, you are perceiving that you’re ignored and excluded, and it has its effects on you, whether or not it was intended to be that way,” Williams says. That sensation of being invisible feels so bad because it threatens some basic human psychological needs. And it works quickly. In experiments, Williams and his team watched what happened when some people were left out of a virtual ball-tossing game with strangers—about as low-stakes an ostracism scenario as you can imagine. They saw that those people being ignored reported elevated feelings of sadness and anger after just a few minutes.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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