the mattering effect


Feeling like we matter is one of the most defining features of our humanity. When that feeling is present, we thrive. When it is absent, we feel ignored and helpless. Threats to mattering diminish dignity and can cause destruction, as we have witnessed in school shootings over the last few decades.

Mattering consists of feeling valued and adding value, to ourselves and others. These two experiences are not only complementary, but highly interdependent. Together, they create virtuous or vicious cycles. Marginalization and exclusion engender frustration, alienation, and even aggression, which make it very hard to gain positive regard. Appreciation, on the other hand, leads to self-confidence, mastery, and the desire to make a difference.

The mattering effect refers to the positive or negative consequences of mattering or not. Feeling valued is a precondition for personal health and well-being. Adding value, or making a contribution, is vital for meaning. The negative effects of not mattering, however, can be devastating. Ostracism, exclusion, and rejection are not only psychologically painful, but they can also lead to depression and aggression.

Many of the school shooters who perpetrated atrocities in the last two decades felt ignored, bullied, and marginalized. To regain their dignity, they felt they had to gain attention, at any cost. Negative attention, in their minds, was better than no attention.

Feeling valued derives from four sources: community, relationships, work, and self. We internalize messages we get from others. This is why peers, friends, family, and colleagues need to help us feel like we matter. But mattering is not just a relational issues, but a social one as well. Building a society based on wellness and fairness is crucial.

Just like we need to feel valued, we must add value, to ourselves, others, work, and the community. Self-determination is a primordial need. When that feeling is threatened, we experience helplessness and lack of control.

In this blog we will explore personal, interpersonal, occupational and social dynamics leading to mattering or invisibility. Mattering affects all aspects of our lives. It is a psychological as well as a political issue. We must pay attention to both.


Photo of Isaac
posted by Isaac Prilleltensky