There’s an article in The New Yorker this week by Atul Gawande titled “Hellhole” which asks whether long-term solitary confinement for inmates can be considered torture. The article describes in great depth the many physical and mental consequences suffered by both inmates and hostage victims in solitary confinement, as well as their mechanisms for coping with the isolation. Although this article is focused on isolation under very specific conditions which are unrelated to the isolation I’m focused on in my work, I found myself devouring every word of the article. I’ve discovered that any piece of writing or story related to isolation, no matter how seemingly unrelated to my work is of interest to me now.
New Yorker Illustration by Brad Holland
I was talking to someone a few weeks ago about a rough patch they were going through where they had difficult getting along with a group of people they had to work with. I sort of assumed talking to them that they were having difficulty because maybe the group of people were being mean to them, but they responded by saying “No, they’re weren’t mean to me. I was just ignored”. It got me thinking that being ignored within a group can be much more painful than when someone is mean to you- at least in that circumstance your presence and existence is being actively acknowledged, even if it’s for negative reasons.