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On mattering, not mattering, but, more importantly, anti mattering. Would we (still) wear the Invisibility Cloak if we knew we could never take it off again?

PSYCHOLOGYTODAY

Why Mattering Is So Important to Our Mental Health

Why Mattering Is So Important to Our Mental Health

psychologytoday.com

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There may be times that you’d like to feel invisible, but for the most part, people like to feel that other people notice and care about them. If you’ve ever walked into a social gathering and waited five minutes for someone to greet you, then you know how painful it is to feel l...

When you stop and think about it, though, why should we care so much about whether people notice us or not? After all, the people who know us might be busy and preoccupied with other things. It shouldn’t make a difference, either, whether people who don’t know us acknowledge our ...

In positive psychology, the quality of “mattering” is considered, in the words of York University’s Gordon Flett and colleagues (2022) to be “a key psychological resource.” Although we might occasionally enjoy the cloak of invisibility, Flett et al. propose that

According to Flett et al., rather than simply feeling invisible, when we suffer from what they call “anti-mattering,” we define ourselves as someone whose “personal identity is dominated by the sense of not mattering to others.” We adopt this identity as a shield for the...

In the words of Flett et al., anti-mattering “should be regarded as a unique and specific vulnerability unlike any other risk factor.... [it] can become a cognitive preoccupation that is internalized and results in self-harm tendencies and an inability or unwillingness to engage in self-c...

The anti-mattering stance can come from many sources, such as facing constant rejection from potential romantic partners, employers, or even those rude people who never reply to your texts. However, Flett et al. propose that its most likely source can be traced to early childhood experiences of n...

Unfortunately, the more resistant the shell becomes to rejection or dismissive treatment, the harder it is for others to get through to us. Rewarding relationships become that much more difficult to attain as others learn that it's easier just to stay away from you.

To tap into the unique qualities of anti-mattering, Flett et al. set about to develop a new 5-item Anti-Mattering Scale (AMS). Across a series of studies using young adult and adolescent samples, Flett et al. first built and then compared their AMS to an existing "General Matteri...

  1. How much do you feel like you don’t matter?
  2. How often have you been treated in a way that makes you feel like you are insignificant?
  3. To what extent have you been made to feel like you are invisible?
  4. How much do you feel like you will never matter to certain people?...

Key to the idea of the AMS is that it's not just feeling unimportant (or low in mattering). These five items from the GMS (General Mattering Scale) show this nuanced difference. Rate yourself with the same scale as the AMS:

  1. How important are you to others?
  2. How much do others pa...

Participants tended to receive higher scores on the GMS than the AMS, with the average at 16 and the majority scoring between 13 and 18.

From these averages alone, you can see that it is more common for people to feel that they have a valuable role in the life of others than to feel...

Now that you’ve tested yourself on AMS and seen how it differs from GMS, it’s time to turn to the psychological consequences of turning away from others as a self-protective mechanism. As shown in the Flett et al. findings, the patterns of scores on key indicators of mental health, includ...

Most importantly, the findings across the young adult and adolescent samples confirmed the predicted relationship between anti-mattering and loneliness as well as the incremental effect on depression of high AMS vs. low GMS scores. This pattern reflects, in the words of the authors, “ties between...

To sum up, feeling that we matter is clearly a contributor to positive mental health. Anti-mattering can become part of a larger identity in which we feel that we lack value to others, even contributing to a sense of marginalization. Although the York University findings establis...

WILLIAM P. YOUNG

If anything matters, then everything matters.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Everything matters. Nothing’s important.

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