Rejection is an act of refusing; it may be an idea, suggestion or a proposal. It is an act that triggers emotions associated with rejection such as hurt, shame, humiliation and other unpleasant emotions. These associated emotions are then manifested in defensive reactions such as anger, self-doubt, fear, etc. Furthermore, unpleasant associated emotions and defensive reactions can in turn affect behavior. Rejection can cause people to indulge in impulsive, risk taking and self-harming behaviors. Rejection can occur in daily life such as rejection by a romantic partner, refusal from a job, or a marriage proposal. Rejection can take place in other multiple contexts as well. Some of the common types of rejection are social rejection, emotional rejection and rejection by family.
Social rejection is the exclusion of a person by peers or any social group, whether it is in school, workplace or any other group setting. In today’s world, people are connected to each other through social media. If a person’s posts or chats on social media are ignored, this results in them feeling rejected. Whether, the rejection is at a smaller or larger level, it results in hurt and disappointment. Likewise, being excluded from the society due to lifestyle preferences also causes hurt and pain. Researchers have identified that our brains are wired to experience pain in response to rejection. Social rejection activates the same part in the brain which gets activated while experiencing physical pain. Therefore, the pain of social rejection is similar to physical pain.
Emotional rejection is emotional pain experienced by a person when they are unable to achieve something desirable. Being unable to fulfill their wishes or wants triggers unpleasant feelings such as sadness, disappointment and hurt. When a person is hurt at an emotional level, the defence mechanism gets activated and the person tries to escape from the hurtful or painful situation.
Rejection by Family
Another form of rejection is rejection by family, including parental rejection, which may consist of “abuse, abandonment, neglect or withholding of love and affection.” This type of rejection affects a person throughout their life. Parental rejection impacts a person’s personality development, self-image, self-esteem and the way they relate to the world.
Rejection impacts an individual’s wellbeing in multiple ways. It can affect the mood and self-esteem of a person. When an individual experiences rejection, whether rejected in a romantic relationship or turned down for a job or admission, they become critical of themselves and complain about their own shortcomings, and feel disappointed with themselves. This is an emotionally unhealthy way to deal with rejection. In some cases, individuals internalise rejection and start pushing others away in order to be self-sufficient. Other than this, rejection can cause depression, stress and anxiety, antisocial behaviors, impaired cognitive abilities and the constant “need to belong.”
Experiencing rejection in different phases of life such as college/university admission, marriage proposal, job, by family and social groups, can lead to the activation of painful and hurtful feelings. This can in turn develop into a state of depression as rejection triggers hopelessness, self-doubt and loss of self-worth. The stress and anxiety it triggers can also exacerbate already existing mental health issues. Long-term rejection, particularly parental rejection, can cause trauma that may make people struggle to develop relationships and blending with others in social settings due to fear of being rejected. Fear of rejection causes people to avoid others and any scenario where they feel threatened of not being accepted by others. In certain cases, people who experience rejection start to learn behaviors, which inflict pain or hurt to others. They lash out against rejecters or even innocent bystanders. There might be cases where rejected people lack empathy for others. Rejection also affects logical and reasoning abilities and make it difficult for the individual to perform well on tasks that demand sound cognitive abilities. People who experience rejection also struggle in making decisions as their emotional pain may overpower cognition. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all human beings have a need to belong. When a person experiences rejection, the need to belong causes emotional pain and hurt. Feeling lonely affects the behavior of the person and can cause them to indulge in negative behaviors such as anger, impulsiveness and self-harming behavior.
Rejection is a common experience, however, processing or coping with the impact of rejection plays an important role in moving forward in life. One of the ways to deal with rejection is by acknowledging the pain. Facing rejection results in painful feelings of embarrassment and hurt. It is important to regulate these emotions in a healthy manner by identifying and feeling these emotions. Moreover, it is also helpful to give some time to yourself to process emotions by, e.g., journaling or exercising. Furthermore, self-reflection helps greatly in processing rejection. Throwing a critical light on what happened and what one can do differently in the future can help a person regain self-worth. This also helps in soothing painful emotions by providing leverage to oneself by the willingness to learn from mistakes. As Henry Rollins says, “We all learn lessons in life. Some stick, some don’t. I have always learned more from rejection and failure than from acceptance and success.” After facing rejection, it is important to look at your qualities instead of focusing on deficiencies only. Analyse your abilities and qualities that make you a unique person and how you can express those qualities in a related situation in the future. One can also work to enhance their abilities or work with a changed strategy towards one’s goals, which can prevent rejection in future. Other than this, human beings are social animals. It is a human need to be valued and appreciated. If a person does not feel wanted, it is felt as a sense of loss. In order to prevent the psychological damage it inflicts, it is very important to affiliate oneself with another group or person to compensate the sense of loss. Shifting focus from rejection to strengthening social connections can help to recover from rejection quickly. Lastly, resilience also plays a significant role in processing rejection. It can be enhanced by having an open mind with a solution-oriented approach. Learning from experiences and seeking social support play a noteworthy role in building resilience. And if you feel like you or someone you know cannot cope using the above, seek professional help. HH
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