Are you struggling with feelings of rejection?
The fear of rejection is a basic human anxiety. How secure our relationships are, how we develop a sense of belonging, these experiences are fundamental to knowing how we fit into our families and groups.
I don’t know what went wrong but my father rejected me. He was always interested in my sister and never had the same feeling about me. I have never been able to change it. I never stop trying to improve our relationship but it seems I can’t. He just isn’t interested in me the way he is in her and her family.anonymous
Rejection hurts. Our sense of belonging is shaken.
Our reactions to rejection may surprise us, but it is an experience that has the power to make us question our identities.
- We are, as it were, wired to be social
- The possibility of being rejected cuts to the heart of us
- Rejection threatens our social bonds
Social bonds fulfill our basic human need to belong and relate to others. Being rejected goes against this need and undermines our sense of security. Attachment theory describes the different ways in which we create bonds with others.
Rejection and Attachment
Whereas anxious attachment is associated with a need for acceptance and being observant of cues that signal possible rejection. Avoidant attachment is associated with feelings of discomfort that are experienced in connection with closeness.
If you grew up in a home in which you were valued, in which the care you got was predictable then you are more likely to develop self-confidence.
By contrast, if you felt your mother or father rejected you, that you weren’t enough to sustain their interest, this can create difficult feelings of shame and self-loathing.
- The problem is that these kinds of feelings can then be triggered at different times in your life when you feel you are being rejected by other people.
Why rejection is so painful and difficult
If you grew up in a family in which you experienced rejection it will be helpful to give yourself the chance to try to come to terms with those feelings now.
When you make peace with such old raw feelings you get a sense of order back in your life.
You start to see more clearly what feelings belong to what. Yes, the rejection in the present is painful, but it may not be like the rejection you experienced as a child.
I came to see that the fact that my father rejected me wasn’t my fault. It was hard work changing that feeling and belief. It was painful and it took a long time. But now I look at him, and yes I am sorry that he doesn’t love me the way he loves my sister. But no, I don’t blame myself for it. I can see now that really it is his problem. I am still very sad about it, but it doesn’t contaminate my other relationships like it used to. In my teens and twenties I think it had a very destructive effect on me. It really interfered with my love life. I always felt my boyfriends were rejecting me.anonymous
It is often only in the rejection that comes from our first adult love relationship, that we become reconnected with the terrible rejections we felt in our early childhood. The breakup of a love affair may connect us with a depth of feeling that we have previously kept shut away and avoided.
- Now is always the right time to try to come to terms with the painful feelings of rejection.
Rejection and relationships
To feel that we are no longer wanted or loved is profound. One moment we thought we knew who we were and who were with. We thought our future was mapped out and secure.
In your relationship you knew who you were. Now, after the rejection everything is changed. How are you supposed to come to terms with this? Give yourself time.
It takes time to come to terms with rejection. Sometimes a very long time. It is comparable to mourning and bereavement. Every bit of us has to adapt to our new life. We have been rejected. We need time to recover and collect ourselves.
Over time our appetites for sex change. And they don’t necessarily change at the same rate as our partners. Woody Allen may have made a career out of trying to laugh his way through relationship trouble, but most people struggle to find the humour in the situation.
You may start to feel that your partner wants less sex than you do. You may feel that you are being sexually rejected. Feeling that your partner is always too tired, or never in the mood to have sex with you is disappointing. This kind of rejection makes us feel frustrated and angry. Behind these reactions, feelings of hurt, sadness, and unhappiness may linger. It is often the sense of sexual rejection that puts us in touch with these older emotional wounds.
If we react to these feelings and get angry or lash out, then we are most likely going to drive our partner further away, and so they will be less interested in sex. So one sexual rejection follows another. It becomes an unhappy cycle of rejection.
Psychotherapy & counselling – a confidential relationship
One of the features and benefits of working through the painful feelings in psychotherapy is that it is confidential. You can go over your fears, sorrows and losses in psychotherapy without feeling you might be wearing your friend’s patience out. Or, that you might have preferred to keep certain things to yourself and not shared them with your friendship group.
The idea of discussing something so painful with a stranger felt strange at first, but in the long run I came to value the confidentiality.anonymous
Rejection raises the ghosts of old feelings of sadness, anger, sorrow
Coming to terms with these feelings can be key to our future development. Engaging with our pain, loss and sadness can be transformative.
If we don’t take the time to work through our sense of being rejected, if we leap into another relationship too quickly, it is likely that our failure to come to terms with the rejection now, may have a bad effect on our new relationship.
We may end up keeping things to ourselves which means our new relationship never has a proper chance to develop.
- In a confidential therapeutic relationship, you may become more able to speak about how you feel. This may be the start of becoming able to tell your partner how you feel.
You may become able to explain that your anger is actually based on unhappy feelings related to old experiences of rejection. A conversation like this can transform a relationship. Where there was rejection there may now be a deeper connection and understanding.
I have twenty years experience of working with people, many who have needed to come to terms with the experience of rejection.
Giving yourself the chance to speak in a confidential setting is helpful, it may be the beginning of starting to develop greater insight into yourself and your situation. It may help you heal your old emotional wounds.
It may help you to develop and to create better and more satisfying emotional relationships.
Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.