Why does rejection hurt so much? Are there some simple ways to manage rejection?
Ah, great question. Rejection does hurt, whether it's because we've been dumped by a partner, rebuffed by a potential love interest, or even turned down by a friend or acquaintance. We like to be liked and when we aren't appreciated for who we are and, all our finer qualities, it hurts. It stings. Ouch.
Whether it hurts a lot, or a little, depends on how much of our feelings we've invested in the person. Being rejected by someone you love can be devastating and can really affect your self esteem. Some people can feel blind-sided and even question their choices, thinking and self worth.
This is a natural reaction for some and can be okay, as long as it is temporary and you bounce back to being your buoyant, healthy self. If it isn't a temporary response, and you find yourself lost, this can be dangerous and time to seek outside help and perspective.
If a person is rejected by someone they hardly know and haven't invested much emotion or time, the sting is sharp, short and rapidly turns to anger.
Some experts describe the phases of feeling rejection much like the stages of grief, because it is a kind of loss. It might be helpful to think of dealing with rejection in this way:
The denial phase
Many people are a bit stunned in this phase, disbelieving that they have actually been rejected. This is a natural defense your psyche does to protect you.
Solution: Acknowledge that yes, sad but true, the relationship is over (or it's not going to start). Try not to dwell on the negative. At this stage, simply work on accepting the fact it's over.
The bargaining phase
You can drive yourself crazy with the "what ifs", but they won't get you anywhere (usually). You can't change a person, or their mind, and what's done is done. Generally, it wasn't only one thing that led to the rejection, but several things. No amount of bargaining will turn the relationship into a healthy one.
Solution: Get out of this phase as fast as you can. "What ifs" can easily spiral out of control. What if I had acted differently on our date? What if I had played it cooler? What if I had given them more sex? What if I hadn't fought so much with them? Reflect on any learning you can gain from the demise of the relationship (or date disaster) and then apply that learning forwards, not backwards.
The loneliness phase
Being rejected by one person can sometimes extend to a general feeling of rejection, leading to decreased feeling of self worth, and increased feelings of isolation.
Solution: Surround yourself with people who do care, and who openly say so. Get your support team friends, family to spend time with you to break you out of feeling this way.
The heartbreak phase
The intensity of this phase is often related to how deeply you were involved with the person who has rejected you, and symptoms can vary from decreased ability to concentrate, trouble sleeping, to feeling nauseous and upset.
Solution: When you find yourself crying, or feeling awful, or having sad thoughts, snap yourself out of it by literally snapping a rubber band around your wrist, or snapping your fingers, and make yourself think a positive thought about something that makes you feel happy. If this doesn't work, reach out to someone for support and distraction (not the person who rejected you!).
The depression phase
Feeling sad, worthless, and perhaps foolish. The heartbreak phase can intensify into depression.
Solution: Allow yourself to feel your pain, but do not wallow. Keep busy, exercise, take care of yourself, and if you have trouble coping with depression, don't hesitate to seek support from counseling or your doctor.
The blame phase
Typically, once some of the intense feelings subside, the brain will seek blame. You might start with yourself, or them, but either way it's important to move past this destructive phase.
Solution: Realise there are always two sides, two players and in a relationship, fault is usually somewhere with both. Think about what you've gained, and what they'll be missing. Move past blame and try to glean some learning from it instead.
The anger phase
Ah, the fury! How dare they reject you! Have they lost their mind?!
Solution: Only let yourself indulge in this phase temporarily. It can feel good to feel angry because it can feel cathartic and the release is liberating. Give yourself a time limit with how long you'll be angry. If you don't, you can become bitter, and that's not healthy.
The acceptance phase
Ah, the peace of truly knowing it wasn't right and you're going to be okay. Better, even.
The healing phase
Moving forward with an open heart, ready to focus on new potential. Good for you! Now get out there!
For more information please see Dr Gabrielle's website.