Tag Archives: manners

The Outsider Syndrome: Feeling Alone

I’ve been on holidays so I haven’t posted for a bit, but a conversation with a friend got me thinking about this phenomenon that I’ve experienced, and others have as well. I’m not a psychologist but I do like to delve into the whys and wherefores of the human psyche and some life experience has taught me a few things about the way we think and behave.

outsider, being alone, loneliness, the other, personality

Sculpture Niobe (1951) by Constant Permeke in sculpture park Kröller-Müller Museum

The Outsider Syndrome is my name for the feeling that you don’t belong, no matter what. That somehow, even if you’re doing the same activity as everyone else, that you just don’t fit in or they know you are different. Sometimes the feeling is real and sometimes it is our own perception.

My feelings of being an outsider began (as I suspect they did for many of us) in childhood. When church was something everyone did, we didn’t attend (except for a brief spate) and this was still when we recited the Lord’s Prayer in elementary school. The teacher would ask us what we did in Sunday school that weekend and I felt different because I couldn’t answer the question. It made me embarrassed, and as a child I was quite shy. Shyness and being picked on because of it did not help with the Outsider feeling.

I also came from a home where my parents divorced at a time when  most of my friends had both parents at home. So yes, I felt different there too. I’m sure there are studies that show people have this Outsider feeling if they are teased, are shy, have broken homes, or are somehow different from the crowd. And of course there are psychological or personality dispositions to all of these feelings.

I felt different for various reasons but those were the ones that shaped me. I felt different because my body wasn’t quite in the norm as everyone else’s, that I was poorer than many of my friends, that I somehow didn’t relate. At times I’ve realized that other people, almost everyone, is different or unique in their own way. In that essence we are all outsiders trying to fit in to the social organism.

This weekend I was at an event, a group that might just be made up of Outsiders; people who find the norm boring, who might be more strongly individualistic, who might like to roleplay, who might geek out over medieval history and things of the Middle Ages. It’s called the Society for Creative Anachronism and it has its share of social misfits as well as artisans practicing crafts that were once done hundreds of years ago. I haven’t been to these events for a while so I was feeling like an outsider again, not quite fitting into the whole game. Another friend was there who hadn’t been at an event in about eight years. He too felt even more acutely than me that he didn’t belong. People go on with their current interests and they’re not sure how to fit you back into their lives either.

This feeling isn’t particular to one group but any established group to which a new person tries to belong may cause this feeling. People like to stay with the familiar and if someone you don’t know walks up to your group you might completely ignore them, and continue talking to your friends. You might turn your back, making a circle and physically excluding them. We are inclusive…of those we know but we can exclude too without realizing it. If the group or event is one meant for people to meet, share and mingle something as small as turning slightly away can cause a person to move off and feel alone.

The world is rife with stories of Outsiders and sometimes they choose to be so. As I entered art college with all those other people who try to push boundaries, move beyond the envelope and think outside the box I found I fit in, because there were many like minds. At the same time I began to embrace my otherness. If people are going to treat me as other or different, than I shall choose to like my difference and be proud of it. People in the arts and sciences are often moving beyond the norm in trying to explore new things or make over old ones.

Being an Outsider can be an isolating experience. If you find there is a new person in your social or working group, or someone who lives farther out, then a little extra attention can help both of you transition and fit in. Long ago, when I moved to Vancouver with a turquoise streak in my hair, a woman who I worked with took a chance to move past the preconception about people who did such things to their hair and got to know me, becoming a very long-term friend. If you’re feeling an Outsider too, even if you have chosen it in some way, it may be harder to find people accepting, but being open and receptive can eliminate that feeling of being alone. Outsiders really are just people you do not yet know

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VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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