Read My Mind

Solitary Confinement

by Dr. Robert Glover on Mar 15th, 2014.     3 comments

solitary-confinement-headA recent op-ed article by David Brooks in the New York Times began like this…..

“We don’t flog people in our prison system, or put them in thumbscrews or stretch them on the rack. We do, however, lock prisoners away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years or decades at a time.

“We prohibit the former and permit the latter because we make a distinction between physical and social pain. But, at the level of the brain where pain really resides, this is a distinction without a difference.”

Mr. Brooks continues to discuss the effects of social isolation…..

“Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the brain activities of people suffering physical pain with people suffering from social pain. As he writes in his book, Social, ‘Looking at the screens side by side ... you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.’

“The brain processes both kinds of pain in similar ways. Moreover, at the level of human experience, social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing and inflicts more cruel and long-lasting effects than physical pain. What we’re doing to prisoners in extreme isolation, in other words, is arguably more inhumane than flogging.”
While reading this article, I was struck not only with how inhumane our prisons systems tend to be but, more significantly, with how many men with whom I work tend to put themselves into their own solitary confinement.

Countless men struggle with shyness, introversion, insecurity, and social anxiety. Because social interaction is painful, they opt to avoid it – especially with people they don’t know – at pretty much any cost.

These men keep to themselves at work, don’t go out with the guys, don’t talk to strangers, and avoid parties. They tend to choose solitary behaviors, such as watching television, reading, surfing the internet, and playing video games, rather than socially interactive activities.

I often give these men assignments to go into public places like coffee shops to work online or read. Even when they don’t interact with anyone around them, many find this kind of social exposure highly anxiety producing.

By placing themselves into voluntary solitary confinement to avoid the pain and anxiety of social interaction, these men actually inflict even greater pain on themselves.

Mr. Brooks continues in his article…..

In general, mammals do not do well in isolation. In the 1950s, Harry Harlow studied monkeys who had been isolated. The ones who were isolated for longer periods went into emotional shock, rocking back and forth. One in six refused to eat after being reintegrated and died within five days. Most of the rest were permanently withdrawn.

“Studies on birds, rats and mice consistently show that isolated animals suffer from impoverished neural growth compared with socially engaged animals, especially in areas where short-term memory and threat perception are processed.

“The majority of prisoners in solitary suffer severely — from headaches, an oversensitivity to stimuli, digestion problems, loss of appetite, self-mutilation, chronic dizziness, loss of the ability to concentrate, hallucinations, illusions or paranoid ideas.

“The psychiatrist Stuart Grassian conducted in-depth interviews with more than 200 prisoners in solitary and concluded that about a third developed acute psychosis with hallucinations. Many people just disintegrate. According to rough estimates, as many as half the suicides in prison take place in solitary, even though isolated prisoners make up only about 5 percent of the population.”

We are wired to socially connect. Our evolutionary ancestors were tribal and depended on one another to survive. This wasn’t just about food and shelter, but also social survival – touch, connection, social interaction, mating, and reproduction. Our ancestors, who had a tendency to socially connect, passed that genetic tendency on to us.

Miracles happen around people. Without social networks, there are no miracles.

If you are one of those guys whose default social switch is on “Isolate and Avoid,” listen to a free interview I recently recorded with David Hamilton, the creator of Authentic Social Influence.

This interview is titled “Create Social Networks That Work For You.”

This recording will give you strategies for creating social networks that work for you – even if you are shy, introverted, or socially anxious.

In this recording, David and I discuss how we have created social networks that work for us. We have different social agendas and have created different kinds of social networks. But bottom line, we have both worked hard to create the kind of social connections that have expanded our lives and opened the doors for all kinds of interesting miracles.

Learn how to get out of your self-imposed solitary confinement and create social networks that work for you.

Download and listen to our discussion now.

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Topics: Social Intelligence


David says ...
Fantastic article. I was in an old jail (as a tourist!) a while back, and we were told the same thing; basically that there had been a time when all inmates were permanently put in solitary; but that this had to stop as they were literally going mad.

Compare this to the 'free' man who sits in front of a computer in silence all day and then goes home to an empty apartment. Not a lot of difference. And it is torture; I know - I've lived that life for years and I'm not out of the woods yet.

I'm betting that a huge percentage of SSRI prescriptions are going to people who are just lonely, or are surrounded by people who treat them badly. Remove that problem, and antidepressant use would plummet I reckon - what do you think?
chiefsinner1 says ...
I have not been in Jail, but I watched my dad live this life of nothing. No social contact, just wallowing in his self absorption and he had given up on life. He secluded himself and i see i do the same, but I can not even face to face with someone for too long before i feel their judgement of who is this guy.
I have always been a watcher and a reader of people. forty years of seeing no social gathering of my parents with friends or going out up to my teenage years then in my marriage not knowing socially how to act I secluded to my family and blamed it on focusing on my family ,when now I see it was Fear.
I can only hope my sons do not follow this sad pitiful way. My ex- wife had left walked out on my sons and I, I have had full custody of them, while she roams around drinking ,drugged up and handing herself out to anyone.
Having crohn's has now become my excuse for my seclusion, has it's point for this disease sucks, but it has also kept me from dating, and kept me alone for 5 years.
Northern_Guy says ...
I have anxiety when in social situations, but I am a very "confident appearing" speaker, and I am actually very good at reading situations and allowing conversations to flow without steering the conversation too much. Even with tricky topics or with people who have even polar opposite views, I find I can read the situation and have a decent conversation. Sometimes I will avoid debate when the social situation calls for it though. Nobody wants a political shouting match at a company Christmas party.

For me, I just tire of the BS of the human socialization game. Coming from a Beta background, I find the "beta zone" pecking order in social situation to be rather mundane, pathetic really. It seems men still have to jostle for position within their own "tribes". I think social groups really are modern day tribes, and I think the point of sites with a philosophy such as this is that you're really going to have better success (at relationships) if you are part of a tribe. I.e., you have a group of guy friends or some sort of community you hang with. You could have a work social circle, a "buddy pal friend" circle, a "just for sports" circle and a "hobby/passion" circle.

I have none of these. I have three guy friends and I don't see them often. It was two, but an old friend wanted to rekindle a friendship and I kind of went for it.

One of the three is very social but inept at relationships.
The 2nd is intelligent, successful but a lot like a MGTOW.
The 3rd is intelligent, borderline sociopathic and married.

I am not sure these three would "mesh" and we've never all hung out together, which is fine I guess but goes against tribe mentality. These three people would likely not get along.

In any case, now being newly separated and heading into divorce, I have to think longer term about how I plan to re-integrate with society. My attitude right now is quite bleak - right now it feels like my romantic relationship days are over. The complete lack of desire for a female companion *or even sex* makes thoughts of MGTOW very strong. If I don't need a female companion, then I don't need a function male tribe to be part of.

Being part of a male tribe creates a social situation that is fertile ground for a relationship - and it creates the necessary friction that women thrive on. It also gives her the "wives of the tribe" to hang out with. This is CRUCIAL. She must be able to find her own place within the female side of the tribe, and find out where she is the female pecking order based on where her new mate sits in HIS pecking order. This gives her a reference point for her sexual market value in that specific tribe. She will likely move up or move out of the tribe if she is not satisfied with her place within the sexual market pecking order of the tribe.

Watch tribes on documentaries. The "who's who in the zoo" is very apparent and you can draw your own parallels to commercialized modern society very easily.


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