Posted on March 2, 2013

Shunning: [Part I]

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the blogosphere corners I frequent regarding Shunning. It has prompted me to write down a few thoughts on what shunning means to me personally.
The very thought of the word absolutely sends shivers down my spine. Shunning is indicative of pure ruthless, social rejection, a thing I grew up with in Goldenbridge. I also associate it with children who were very friendly with each other in the penalised institution, who, alas, were ridiculed and separated from each other by the staff. They were called ‘love birds’ then castigated and shunned. There were also children who were different from others, and they too were deliberately avoided by other children and not allowed to associate with the group. Children who did not know the meaning of mother or father figures should not have been subjected to shunning by those who were supposed to be acting in loco-parentis. The children, on the other hand, who turned their backs on other children, were only doing what was expected of them. It was learned behaviour. A warped environment begets warped behaviour. 
Mother and father figures are most important in children’s lives and deprivation of them was punishment enough, without having to be shunned by grown-ups. Mother and father words meant nothing to institutionalised inmates…excepting that they were words synonymous with beatings, whereby children had hollered out those very words…’O Mammy…O Daddy’ after a big thick shiny polished bark of a tree had been reined down on them after having spent hours upon end on a cold landing awaiting in dreaded anticipation of said floggings by the nun in charge.
 Child inmates were also prevented from knowing / speaking to the nuns in the convent. The latter were just like aliens from another planet. When child inmates dared to look back at them sitting in their personal convent chapel pews, with black hooded heads completely hidden and matching black gown trails sprawling all over the aisles. They rather remind me of the TV advert of the ghost of death who – on one stormy blizzard night knocks on the door of one Mrs. O’Connor. The ghost beckons to her to come along, that it was waiting for her. Fortunately for the blind aged woman, she saw not his black skeleton hooded demeanour and decided not to go with him, saying that she was busy cooking Xmas mince pies. Or – when they came to the Rec [“wreck”] hall on an annual basic to watch a film. Their black robes matched perfectly with the black cloths that covered the windows. The nuns were never allowed to have any personal interaction with GB child inmates. They were totally shunned. Goldenbridge and industrial *schools* were used as weapons to frighten children in their homes – who were deemed bold. “Now, if you don’t behave properly we’ll send you to the nuns at Goldenbridge.” [Insert institution.] The threats invariably worked, as no child wanted to be seen dead in an unfriendly institution.

Shunning happens when groups form solidarity with each other. It happens to religious groups and tightly knit organisations and communities. The intended targets can be seen as enemies. Goldenbridge child inmates were easy shunning targets because they were seen by everyone as defenceless humble targets with nobody to look out for them. Children in the nearby ‘outside’ national school in the same grounds were warned that they were not to glance at or dare to speak to children from GB industrial school. Woe-betide them if they chanced to do so. That also included children who were related in some way to the inmates. There was a stigma attached to children who were deemed the lowest of the lowest by Irish society. Think Untouchables [Dalits.]

Shunning [Part 2]: Scrawny pigeon analogy

I think that I make assumptions about people SHUNNING me, because of looking through very disturbed emotional lens. I do know that I’ve the propensity to get triggers, and because of these triggers everything can get super-heightened and writing can become disproportionately illogical and irrational. Think confirmation bias. It creeps into a lot of stuff. I think it comes into play a lot and perhaps distorts reality. I don’t, however, know how to fix the distortions. Rational thinking just goes out the door when there are trigger factors involved. It had been said to me by someone known that you “read backward from the intensity of your emotion to the (imagined) malice of other people. The more you hurt, the more malicious they are. Everybody does that, but you do it in an exaggerated way.” Yes, that pinpoints to it exactly. It has to do with tremendous feelings of inferiority from the past. The template for this was laid in Goldenbridge, and it forever replays the same old “you will never amount to anything’ spiel that was perpetually flung in the direction of child inmates. The lack of feeling validated eternally encompasses my very being. 
I know that I’ve been immensely scarred by an excruciatingly painful childhood spent in a Victorian child prison refuge. All my memories are filled with so much torturous acts. For example: I have vivid recollections of scrumptious scraps of Marietta biscuits, soldier crusts of toast, and particles of cake from St. Ita’s staff table, that were placed by minor staff in an aluminium sieve, and each day methodically flung out of the corridor window that faced directly onto the prison yard ground, that Christine Buckley once said “where the sun never shone.” Child inmates instantaneously flung themselves to the ground and fiercely grabbed at the luscious leavings. The ‘scraps’ were as regular as clockwork, so inmates would have eagerly awaited their anticipation, as the scraps were considered rare sumptuous food items. Inmates, who never had toast to eat would gobble down the black burnt bits, as if they were like expensive oysters. Dog-fights ensued. Some inmates snatched not only the gorgeous tasty scraps, but also the hair on heads – the little that was left, anyway, – after-all getting heads shorn and cut short was the norm – of some inmates, and locked themselves into each other for a half an hour or so, at any given time, as they were so enraged at each other for getting the best scraps. The staff thought theses scenarios were hilarious. They thrived on inmates being viscous towards each other. 
I also remember on rare occasions such as feast-days when child inmates with index fingers firmly placed in the centre of their lips – who were sat on hard benches in the REC (euphemistically known as “the wreck” because of the savage beatings that regularly occurred there by staff members when the nuns were up praying in the convent) were given two or three bulls-eye sweets. If a dislike was taken to a child, the staff member because she might have taken her finger off her lips – with the shiny silver mirrored can with delicate handle – would bypass that particular child, and the one sitting next to it got extra sweets, so as to rub it in even more. The horrible staff member – hugging the can – would then glide along the benches with a smirk on her face. It not only caused terrible tension in the child who was left sweet-less but also to the rest of the onlookers who wondered whether they were going to suffer the same ignominious despicable fate. Shunning innocent children was normal behaviour.

These vivid cruel Goldenbridge memories, that I can relate to where feelings of cruelty and being shunned come very strongly into play.

Fast forward as a young adult: 
I remember years ago during lunch-hour from my job at the specialised Metallurgical library at Carton House Terrace in London – strolling around nearby St. James’ Park. I stood for a long while watching the pigeons being fed by various people, including myself. There was one particular scrawny pigeon who, instead of vying for the nuts and the like that were lovingly strewn on the ground, had decided to constantly chase the other birds away, so that they wouldn’t get all the rich pickings. Alas, the worn out scraggy pigeon was doing itself a terrible injustice. Indeed, it was its own worst enemy, because, if it sincerely had any wit at all it would have joined in, in gathering the nuts, instead of defeating the object by daftly chasing away the other pigeons, who were clearly benefitting greatly from the sumptuous healthy bird feed. However, I could identify with the scrawny pigeon so much, as it clearly had no insight. Because if it had it would have been as self-seeking and cunning as the rest of the pigeons and thought of itself in a flawless commonsensical manner. The scrawny pigeon’s actions reminded me of all the negative energy I had wasted going after assumed shunning sources. It’s uninspiring to think of all the negative energy that’s harboured in the brain, with all the good energy gone to waste? Just like the klutzy pigeon too it’s spinning / chasing away at the wrong sources.

When I returned to Ireland from Birmingham in the mid-eighties I resided in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. It is a small rural town in the province of Ulster, which now comprises of less than 2,000 inhabitants. It laid fame to Paddy Reilly, who immortalised it in song, and Father Brendan Smyth, who was a notorious paedophile – who in the early nineties almost brought the Irish government to its knees because of the child abuse scandals. In this community I experienced shunning on a gargantuan scale by a certain section of that close-knit society. I put the shunning down to not having had any proper position, or family status, and also due to being friendly with an unmarried mother, who was shunned by large swathes of the community. Some townies would cross the other side of the main street to avoid her. I witnessed it on so many occasions and was absolutely infuriated with their low-down ignorant behaviour. Think fallen woman. She was hardened to the hostility, as she grew up in the town and was cognisant of the two-faced shenanigans of some specific insular folk. The same community that mostly never spoke out about alleged heinous crimes of the aforementioned priest for fear of offending the religious. The hypocrisy knew no bounds. Here’s an example of a worse case shunning scenario of a pregnant young woman in Granard – not very far from Ballyjamesduff – and the dire consequences that unfolded because of having lived in a town that shunned girls and women who bore children out of wedlock.

For there before the two lads lay the half-naked figure of 15 year old Ann Lovett, whimpering in shock and pain, gritting her teeth through tears, delirious and mumbling. Beside Ann, in a pool of blood, lay her still-born baby boy which she had just delivered, alone and unaided, there below the statue of the Virgin. Beside the dead child lay its placenta, severed from Ann’s body by a pair of scissors she had been carrying around in her school bag for several weeks now, in preparation for this very event.

Read more: A History of Sexuality In Ireland [2]: The Nineteen Eighties –

I also lived in a bed-sit, and that alone would have been frowned upon by other snootier townie elements who were won’t to steering clear of those less fortunate. Survival of the fittest! The status quo had at all times to be maintained to preserve their superior status – one mustn’t let themselves be contaminated by the mere riff-raff who wandered out of nowhere into town, and even worse still, a returning emigrant. I was considered a blow-in. In small towns everyone must know everyone else’s business. They have to know one’s intergenerational antecedents. My Goldenbridge institutional past was surreptitiously well-kept secret. I had never spoken to a sinner in my entire life about my childhood. In fact, I had spent my entire time in England concocting stories about a family that never existed. I created them to suit the occasion. A lot of survivors of industrial *schools* would know exactly what I’m talking about here, as they would have resorted to similar survival tactics. I was completely unaware of the trap I was falling into upon deciding to live in a wee town in the valley of the squinting windows. My mother and her husband had lived three miles away in the country, so hence falling naturally into that situation. Besides, I never would have dreamt of going to live in Dublin, as I was actually afraid of any association connected to Goldenbridge. It actually took me ten years to come to terms with facing Dublin. To this day I still cannot go back to the industrial *school area*, as it would have the propensity to freak me out something terrible. I thought I was safe in a small town, but no, not at all. The opposite. In fact – I felt very strongly about not being accepted and shunned by certain sections of society in Ballyjamesduff, that I was compelled to mention it some while ago in a wee article I wrote about Ballyjamesduff. To me it appeared like shunning. An example. There was a particular incident where I went to an audition to join The Frolic’s, Musical Society. A whole group of people that were known to me by sight was in full conversation on my arrival to the audition. There was suddenly utter silence when I entered the room. One person even got up from her seat to move away from me, when I sat down in the chair beside her. I was so mortified that that I quietly went into the loo and disappeared. I know that I was in a bad place with respect of familial problems, and it would have showed in my demeanour. I thought that by entering into a hobby that I was very interested in, that it would bring me out of myself, and help me to get back on my feet. I was floored, as the amount of courage it took me to even contemplate on going there, knowing that a lot of them would not even bid me the time of day on the street was devastating to the psyche. I just didn’t have the emotional skills to turn it around and change things, as such emotional energy had heretofore been drained because of having to continually cover up about my past.

Related: Ballyjamesduff Co.Cavan Revisited | Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin …

Shunning [Part 111]

To this day I carry the residue of shame that stems from shunning that was bestowed on me relentlessly as a child in Goldenbridge. I get paranoid thinking that parts of in the blogosphere that I frequent is out to shun me, in the same way, that was done to me in Goldenbridge. I become convinced that if bloggers don’t interact with me personally, well, it certainly has to do with me not being intellectually good enough to be in their Interwebz presence.

Shunning is such a barbaric practice. Shunning is probably used to give people a kind of false power over ‘perceived’ enemies. Shunning is bad and should not be practiced on one’s own worst enemies. Shunning is unhealthy. Reducing oneself to employing an inhumane practice that is known to cause severe mental, emotional psychological, trauma only defeats the object. Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorised as torture.
Yes, shunning can cause severe psychological damage and should not be condoned by those who think it a corrective measure to use towards those whom they feel need punishing in this way because they don’t conform to their way of behaviour or thinking. Shunning is like placing the recipients in mental prisons. People should not use the power of the group to place people in precarious odious places.
Children in Goldenbridge industrial *school* should not have been shunned, as they had to already withstand being shunned by their mere incarceration. It should have been the practice of caregivers to embrace them and not to have continually sent them to Coventry. They suffered enough punishment. Shunning belongs to incestuous organisations and should under no circumstances be a part of the mindsets of those who seek to gain higher knowledge of the world around them. A group that insulates itself won’t evolve properly. Using jungle like behaviour such as shunning so that it will bring about law and order is antediluvian. Not to be recommended at all. I reiterate. Shunning can cause people to die. Shunning can cause people to commit suicide. Shunning can wreak untold damage.

As a survivor of an industrial school who suffers with PTSD, I would ask people in authority to think carefully before using shunning methods on people. If you find it difficult to understand the mental emotional make-up of people don’t play around in a labyrinthine shunning garden. I should add here that survivors of industrial schools suffer with every conceivable personality disorder, early childhood attachment loss, lack of education and every multitude of ailments there are to be found in the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. So if there are people who want to shun them because they perhaps seek approval, suffer with loneliness because of their incapability in being able to conform to the proper societal norms, they should think twice.

Shunning Religious Comparisons [Part 1V]

I wanted to find some religious shunning comparisons, so came across following information.

Exploring Amish says on its ‘shunning’ website page:

…[W]hen you are shunned, you are treated as if you’re a total outsider. The Amish Church forbids any member of the Church to give you any social standing. Amish shunning divides families and causes much heartache in the Amish community.

I also did not have to look further than Ophelia Benson’s butterfliesandwheels. FTB blog to find out more ‘shunning’ information on the Amish.

On September 13th, 2012, Ophelia says in her Big Amish Brother post:

Have you seen “Breaking Amish”? It’s pretty fascinating – in how horrible the Amish life is. It’s not just in all the deprivation (no school past 8th grade for you!) and rules (as one rebel says, “you can wear this but not that…”) – it’s the revolting coldness of “shunning.” If you step out, you’re […]…

Read the rest Big Amish Brother

The Amish shunning quite reminded me in a sizable way of the shunning that occurred at Goldenbridge where even the nuns up the way – not to mention local children from the ‘outside’ national school adjacent to the convent were warned not to have anything to do with children from the industrial school, lest they be contaminated by their lowly presence. The revolting coldness of shunning in both case scenarios was absolutely shockingly suppressive. It was just not going to school and working in a laundry and making rosary beads in a secret factory, or no school past 8th grade for the Amish that had to be contended. It was the inhumane practice of shunning. Nonetheless, compared to the practices of some sects and cultures, Amish shunning seems quite mild.

Some ultra-orthodox Jewish congregations, for example, go so far as to hold funerals for former members who decide to marry outside the religion.

I discovered some quotes on shunning which are from various other religious perspectives that were deemed noteworthy to mention here despite being written a decade ago at •

Karen McCowan says Many religions remove members

Tuesday March 4, 2003

“Such shunning is “a fairly common practice of radical reformation sects, groups that tend to be drawn in very much on themselves,” said Carl Raschke, a Denver University religious studies professor.”


“Other practitioners include certain Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities, Hutterites and the Bruderhof.”

I didn’t explore individual Islamic cults. However, this quote from Karen McCowan sums up succinctly the same fate as what happens to Jewish extremist groups.

And in some extremist Islamic groups around the world, apostasy (renunciation of faith) is considered punishable by death – witness the bounty placed on author Salman Rushdie after he was branded an apostate for “The Satanic Verses.”

One would think that being shunned by scientologists would be a welcome relief from all the brainwashing:

Scientology shunning, called “disconnection”, forbids its members from interacting with a “suppressive” person. No calls, no letters, no contact.

 Sourced: Many religions remove members

It’s very sad to learn that suicide attempts are not uncommon with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Re: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Shunning

…[I]t is a common trait among esoteric movements that claim to be “the Truth.” Members are required to sever association with even their own family members and relatives who leave. The consequences of this harsh doctrinal policy are extreme, shattering family relationships and leaving the victims emotionally and spiritually devastated. Suicides or attempted suicides are not uncommon.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia: Excommunication within Catholicism is seen as medicinal. The goals are similar to the Amish. In, that the long term effects are to try to draw them back to the ‘path of righteousness.’

Read more here

Here’s another example of an appalling shunning incident within Catholicism that happened on May 18, 2010. I first read about it at butterfliesandwheels and was so disgusted at the way the nun had been treated by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. Then again, on reflection I shouldn’t really find it unsurprising. It has not got a very good record in its treatment of institutional children in the past. 170, 000 children and more went through the hands of the religious in Ireland in the past and there is now a Ryan Report to show the shoddy treatment of its handling of the most vulnerable of society.

PHOENIX, Arizona ( – The Bishop of Phoenix has announced that a Catholic nun and administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix has automatically excommunicated herself by approving an abortion on a woman who was 11-weeks pregnant, and whose life hospital officials allege they were trying to save.

See: Nun Excommunicated Self by Approving Abortion – Catholic Online

It has since been rescinded. Incidentally, there was also another nun in Australia who suffered the same fate. The two nuns would have devoted their entire lives to religion and worked every hour God gave them for the good of Mother church. However, the church had/has such power over them, that it thought fit to wield it, at the drop of a hat, and reduce them to insignificant nonentities. Ironically, the Excommunicated Australian Nun Became A Saint in 2010. Pope Benedict canonised Mary MacKillop, making her Australia’s first native-born saint. She’s been dubbed the “Patron Saint of abuse victims.

Read the rest

Shunning is here to stay, and very active so it appears in one particular American school in Indiana. I came across a post on the 18th of February, 2013 again at butterfliesandwheels where a conservative talk show host “Janet Mefferd waded into the controversy about the Indiana high school where a group of students wanted to organise a separate prom that would specifically prevent gay and lesbian students from attending:”

In her post Ophelia Benson says:

I find that there’s a right I can have that I didn’t even know I could have. There’s a right to not see gay people. I did not ever know that. A conservative talk show host called Janet Mefferd says there is such a right. Conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd this week waded into the …

“We don’t agree with it and it’s offensive to us,” said Diana Medley who is a special needs teacher, whom children go to with their problems. Her philosophy is that she “doesn’t believe anyone is born gay.” She continues “I believe that it was life circumstances and they chose to be that way; God created everyone equal,” said Medley. ”Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don’t agree with them, but I care about them. It’s the same thing with my special needs kids, I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason,” said Medley. With a mindset of a teacher like that at the school one can only wonder what hope have the gay teens. She is so utterly indoctrinated. Love the person, but not the sinner. Thankfully though, not all in the community think what they’re doing is right in having a separate prom. Yes, there’s a right ‘not to see gay people’, but it’s wrong to shun people for the wrong reasons. This is stomach churning stuff.

Continue reading »

I hold very strong views on shunning because of my past institutional upbringing and a whole young life of feeling shunned by the world. So I feel fit to talk about the negative consequences of this dastardly practice that is so common with religious. I know too of many religious people themselves who were on the receiving end of shunning when they decided in the past to leave religious life. They had given their lives to God and in one fell swoop because they started to disbelieve they were cast asunder and shunned for the rest of their lives. They had to face an alien world all on their own without support from the religious. Yet, they’d previously devoted their entire lives to religious life and gave up everything. Eaten bread is soon forgotten. People have been excommunicated in the Roman Catholic Church for helping with actions that were deemed wrong by the Vatican. There was also a recent case of an elderly priest, Father Bob, in Australia, who was cast aside and shunned by the church and asked to leave his dwellings because he spoke out on child sex abuse issues. I don’t want to conflate his mercifulness with that of those who are shunned for genuine wrongdoing, but at the end of the day the same religious practice is used in both case scenarios, and all boils down to the one thing. Shunning is shunning is shunning and should be a despised practice by those who despise all wrongful acts that the church is famous for indeed. One can’t deny one vile practice of the church whilst using the same vile practice for in another capacity. It’s utterly hypocritical.

On a wider sociological scale one has only to look at what shunning has done to religious people in Northern Ireland. The divided communities have thrived on hating one another for generations. Shunning can cause wars.

The religious from all persuasions have a lot to answer for the way that they shun children and adults alike. The religious who practice shunning should not be messing around with the delicate nature of human beings. They have no right to separate children and adults from their loved ones. The legacy of separating children from their parents and denying the former any knowledge of their familial backgrounds has specifically done irreversible damage to those who were sent into industrial school system in the past in Ireland. The nuns were more concerned about their own image that they denied children the love of their parent/s. There was one particular incident in Goldenbridge where twins were denied knowing who their family was because the nuns did not want to be disgraced. The head-honcho nun was a friend of two of aunts belonging to the twins, as both of them were Sisters of Mercy. The head-honcho denied the twins the right to know their mother because of shame attached to a sister of the aunts having had them out of wedlock. For fifty years she flatly refused to tell the twins anything about themselves, despite the constant pleading and suffering. It was only revealed when she was threatened with legal action.

Shunning Conclusion [Part V]

As I pointed out at the outset, my personal experiences vis a vis shunning harks back to my long childhood incarceration years at Goldenbridge. I know that I have to be extra mindful not to blame the world out there because of the tremendously damaging wrongdoing done by a society that was far too close-minded and ignorant to care about the impressive fragile minds of children. I soaked up the shunning. I soaked up the rejection. I soaked up the harshness of my surroundings, with not a moral compass to guide me along the way. I had no compass to steer me in the right direction, as do those who grow up in normal home-loving families mostly take for granted. I don’t know how to fix the distortions that were embedded in the brain at a time when the mind was like a sponge soaking and absorbing it. However, I do know that being cognisant of having the propensity for confirmation bias towards the world at large, I must intermittently stretch my elastic wristband to alert me to the predilection I have for negative thinking and steer the mind into a more positive direction. The onus is on me not to be a target for shunning. As a child I was helpless to turn it around, but now as an older adult I must become aware that I DO have the power to turn it around here’s been a lot of talk lately in the blogosphere corners I frequent regarding shunning. It has prompted me to write down a few thoughts on what shunning means to me personally as the very thought of the ‘shunning’ word absolutely sends shivers down my spine.


Wiki says: “Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture. Mental rejection is a more individual action, where a person subconsciously or willfully ignores an idea, or a set of information related to a particular viewpoint. Some groups are made up of people who shun the same ideas.”


One thought on “Shunning

  1. The children incarcerated by the State in Church owned institutions were, effectively, shunned by society indeed by all the organs of the State. The children weren’t entitled to a decent education, decent living conditions, to family contact, adequate and sustainable diet – only enough to keep the wheels of the Industrial Schools Machine turning. The children weren’t entitled to constitutional or legal protection – when the right to constitutional protection was established (by Evelyn’s father) the judgement, which should have opened the doors of the Industrial Schools – wasn’t published until 1989 when – coincidentally – no Industrial School existed.

    It would be very easy to shun/ignore those people who supported the main players above (Church & State) – or those who denigrate the truth that survivors have spoken and continue to give voice to. Disengagement with these people really isn’t an option – they must be made face the reality of physical & sexual violence done in the name of religion.

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