A lot of how we handle the ups and downs of life is determined by how we respond to rejection.
When I looked into the meaning of that word, the number of internet hits was very high – about 18 million!
Cast away, discarded, abandoned, dropped, kept at a distance, dumped, pushed aside, and on and on and on. A lot has been written about feelings of rejection; songs, poetry, stories, books and movies. It’s such a common human experience that descriptions are everywhere.
Does anyone handle rejection well? I guess there must be someone, somewhere, who does. But, in my psychotherapy practice I deal with lots of people who struggle with that very real pain.
Why is rejection more incapacitating for some people than for others?
I think that the experiences of the child will at least contribute to the experiences of the adult. When a child has had one or both parents who were perceived as rejecting, beliefs were formed regarding whether that child was lovable, worthy of sticking around for, interesting, valuable, etc. If there were other caretakers who were constant, loving, interested and nurturing, the impact of parental rejection was probably mitigated to some degree. If not, attachment to people who were supposed to love us may have become inherently emotionally unsafe, and therefore something to be avoided or kept at arms length.
Sometimes, rejection is expected. What I mean by that is some people, due to some earlier experiences, hope that their important relationship will last, hope that they will be accepted and loved forever, but underneath it all they fear and even believe that they are not worthy – and that therefore, their significant other will one day reject them and reject the relationship.
Sometimes people test the strength of the bond repeatedly, wondering what will finally result in rejection. And for some people, rejection will be seen as inevitable – “I always knew he/she wouldn’t stay.”
For people with a more healthy and positive experience of attachment, rejection by a valued other is still quite painful. Yet, these people may have a long term perspective that will take over after awhile, and they will be able to gradually know that they are lovable and will find someone else who they will want, and who will want to stay. They will not feel that the rejection defines them. If this is not you, you can change how you experience, or are managing, rejection.
If you are dealing with the pain of rejection and you need help figuring out how to cope with the experience, consider quality counseling or therapy. Rejection does not have to define you!