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Social Rejection and Romantic Rejection

Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Posted in Reflection by Joel Gross

Social rejection is a situation which arises many times in life and various people react to it in different ways. Social and romantic rejection occurs when a person or a group of people deliberately exclude another person or group.

There are people who avoid rejection at all costs and thus never take any risks or put themselves in a situation where they could be rejected. On the other hand, there are people who don’t let rejection stop them from trying again. I try to put myself in the latter group and I think that I am better than most people at bouncing back and trying things again. My friends generally consider me one of the most persistent people that they know. For example, if I don’t get a job, I bounce back and apply for 5 more.

Rejection is a difficult topic to talk about for most people, including myself. No one wants to acknowledge that they did not measure up in some way, true or false, to another’s expectations. Sometimes people get rejected for good reasons and sometimes they get rejected for bad reasons, but either way, rejection hurts. Every human being gets rejected at some point or another, and most people get rejected many times, whether it be from a romantic interest, a job, an apartment application or a friend. I think that just realizing the fact that everyone gets rejected sometimes makes it easier to deal with- if you have a friend who rejects you, it helps to understand that most people who have friends has experienced one rejecting them. You are not alone in this.

One of the most interesting things about rejection is the fact that it is SO difficult to acknowledge, even to yourself. When a girlfriend dumps you, you don’t even want to think of it that way, much less admit to anyone else. Think about it: the last time you were rejected by someone you cared about did you really admit it and the reasons why even to yourself? Rejection is much easier to admit when you have an easy reason to assign to it that doesn’t make you do any soul searching. If you didn’t get that job, you may say “they needed someone with more experience”. Rarely will you even think “I did not have the ability to do that job”, even if that is the case. This has both positive and negative effects: positive because it makes it easier to maintain your confidence, negative because it does not allow for reflection on your faults and how they might be fixed.

Psychologists have shown that rejection, especially of the romantic variety, triggers a response in the brain affecting dopamine & cortisol activity. In other words, rejection can actually be PHYSICALLY painful. People react to rejection with a variety of negative emotions from despair and resignation to frustration and intense anger. Each year in America, over a million people are stalked, almost always by ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands or ex-live in partners. Something that really amazed me was that 80% of these people are actually attacked physically by their stalker. Frightening. Why do people stalk? People who stalk are those who are not mature enough to deal with the negative emotions of rejection, usually because they refuse to acknowledge that rejection and the physical pain that comes with it even to themselves. Denial is a powerful and very dangerous mental tool.

One of the best signs of a mature person is how they react to rejection. Rejection is an emotionally, mentally and physically painful experience. I think most people who have been rejected by someone they have had a long term romantic relationship with would prefer the pain of a broken bone to the pain of a broken heart. I know I would. But that is not an option. It is very important when dealing with rejection to first acknowledge it to yourself and then to people close to you. Don’t tell the world (as certain people I know have done in a very awkward fashion), but it is good to talk about it with those you trust. Pick yourself up and move on with your life. Don’t give up or quit, get back in the game (whatever that game is- job hunting/romantic/etc) and try again.

Rejection sensitivity is the subjective measure psychologists use when assessing how someone perceives rejection. Some people are extraordinarily sensitive to rejection and even minor things, like forgetting a phone call can send them into a state of extreme anger and frenzied frustration. Psychologists have found a correlation between rejection sensitivity and neuroticism- people who are unable to recognize different types of rejection are at risk for bad behavior. Also, because of this association, psychologists theorize that certain people are more susceptible to rejection sensitivity than others due to their genetics.

Some people undergo seemingly very minor forms of rejection and react with levels of hostility and aggression that go far beyond any reason. Consider the attacks at Columbine High School- a kid undergoes the same teasing and bullying that millions of other high schoolers have undergone, but reacted far beyond comprehension and went on a killing spree. Fortunately, most people do not handle rejection that way. Most people are able to move on whether by ignoring it or acknowledging it or releasing their emotions in other ways (some healthy, some not).

I have personally undergone many forms of rejection and while I may not be an expert, I at least have a lot of experience lol. When I first went to junior high, I had not had the experience of making new friends since preschool since I stayed in the same place all through grade school. Unfortunately for me, my grade school friends all came with me, so I made no effort to make new friends. After the first semester, all of my old friends left my junior high and I was left alone while everyone else had made their new friends and developed cliques… which made it tougher for me to make friends and I was already inexperienced. That lead to some unpleasant rejection experiences. Another type of rejection I experienced was the kind psychologists usually think of as most dangerous- parental rejection. I was kicked out of my house when I was 14 due to my mother’s drug abuse and my non-biological father’s lack of testes. The rejection here caused some issues for me for a few years, but I think I have mostly matured past them and stabilized my life. And, of course, I have undergone romantic rejection a few times. The toughest one to deal with was the first one- Becky- but after I discovered how to deal with it, romantic rejection has been far easier to handle. No doubt, I have handled some rejections poorly, but as a whole I think that I have done quite well for myself. I bounce back pretty quickly, learn my lessons and move on with my life…

… except i’m slightly insane! ;)

Just kidding.

Realistically, life is full of various rejections and how you deal with it defines who you are. Can you pick yourself up and move on? Are you willing to try again? Can you keep up a good attitude even in the face of rejection?

One final tip: Laughter is a great cure for rejection. When faced with Becky’s rejection, I didn’t know how to handle it, so I sent her a box full of little gifts and a note to try to get her back. She didn’t want to see me, so I made a mutual friend of ours, Fletcher, deliver the box even though he didn’t want to. Ever since then “the box” has become a running inside joke between us whenever we are talking about our relationships with women or even employers. The ability to laugh at yourself and your situation is a key to making that situation much, much easier to deal with.

Another interesting side note: When university researchers have studied rejection in the laboratory, they have discovered that even short-term rejection from strangers has a significant temporary effect on people. People who are rejected become very aggressive, willing to cheat, less willing to help others and generally engage in antisocial, self-defeating behavior. Don’t let this happen to you. When you start feeling angry about rejection, take a deep breath and find a way to overcome it without negative reactions.

Researchers have also discovered that there are gender differences when peole are faced with rejection. Men are interested in face-saving (pretending like you don’t care for instance), while women try to regain entrance to the group… Probably why more Goths are men than women lol.
Anyways, have any of you experience rejection that you would like to discuss? Any thoughts on how different people react to rejection or good ways of dealing with it?

23 thoughts on “Social Rejection and Romantic Rejection

  1. I have been dealing with a situation that is so reminiscent of high school….and takes me right back to that most painful time. Several years ago, a couple moved into our community who quickly made friends with all of our closest neighbor friends. They now have “stylish” parties, regularly, to which all of our friends are invited and we, are never invited. When they first moved in, the woman started a book club, which continues, though she no longer attends. I look at my conduct and wonder what happened….I have always been very friendly to her. But the experience of being excluded from what now feels like “the in crowd” in high school, in our neighborhood and community, feels so humiliating. And it is ongoing, and very much in my/our face. My feeling is that these people are very snobby…and that somehow, we just don’t “measure up.” This is nonsense…but nonetheless it is how this makes ME, and less so my husband, feel. Now we are even reluctant to attend parties of other neighbors to which this couple are invited, because honestly, I am not feeling very friendly toward them at this point, and would just rather not be around them. I have unfriended the woman on facebook…feeling like it was my turn to do a little of the rejecting, and just feeling sick of hearing about all of their latest parties, which by the way, they are rude enough to announce to everyone after the fact. What is my best approach to handling this situation?

  2. who the fuck do you think you are asshole what makes you think you have the ability to determine someones maturity level ove the pain of rejection they are feeling

  3. I got fired from a job for a dumb reason. (They are doing lay offs, but hiding them under legitimate “broken policies” — awesomest part was I never even so much got a warning, let alone write up, nor did I break the “policy” in question) And now I’m putting myself out there, applying for jobs, having no one call me but jerks who will hire anyone (I have no experience as a door to door salesman or insurance person, stop trying to recruit me please) I was a baller employee, No sick days in 3 years, never late, always kicking @ss… sure some people didn’t like me, but they were just jealous or jerks or both. Here I am, knowing all this, with the mounting employer rejections, thinking about my old coworkers… and I cannot sleep. Every night I just lay here with the lights on, like I’ve lost God or something. Tonight, I can’t even read the blogs about loving yourself and believing in whatever. No, today I lost something. I see companies still looking to fill a position, when I already dropped off my stellar resume there. It’s like really, you all already don’t like me? You should love me. Look at this resume, it hums greatness. Jerks. All of ‘em.

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