By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW
Researchers have spent years trying to pin down exactly how many emotional experiences we have a day and it turns out… it’s pretty tough.
One study shows that there are five basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy, and sadness (1). This study has prevailed throughout most other research and is even the basis behind the Pixar movie Inside Out (if you haven’t seen it’s a must!). If you’re one of my clients, you’re pretty familiar with these emotions- mainly because of my “emotions list” (a colored wheel with a variety of different emotions written down) that I hand out when someone is trying to describe the reaction they’ve had to an event. Not everyone likes this wheel and for the most part this makes sense because dealing with our emotions is hard and can trigger many different conditions. In handing this emotion wheel over, something kept popping up for my clients and my clinical skills tell me “if something pops up more than once, there’s something deeper there.”
I’m not sure if there’s another emotion that feels more like a gut punch than the emotion of rejection and it doesn’t help that we normally feel rejected with situations that mean the most to us: relationships, our careers and dream chasing.
Interestingly enough, rejection has a physical reaction that can cause physical pain. In a study published in 2011, the pain of seeing a picture from an ex-relationship that was unwanted is similar to the pain of spilling hot coffee on oneself. Additionally, the brain regions that are activated when we experience physical pain – such as being punched are the same brain regions activated when we are turned away in a social setting or a prospective career (2).
It makes sense that you’re hurting when you’re rejected.
Some reminders that can hopefully be emotional medicine for your rejection pain:
1. Embrace avoidance and use it productively:
Did you get turned down from the job of your dreams? Remind yourself of your goals and even make a list if needed. Ask yourself some questions such as “why did I want this job?” “What is the job of my dreams?” and “How can I get myself to this goal?” Sometimes after a rejection it can be easier to avoid feeling vulnerable in the future, however, using this moment to fuel productivity can help you find something that may be even better.
2. Reframe your thoughts:
When feeling rejected it makes sense to fall into a thought pattern that can be harmful, as you are feeling hurt and negative self talk can thrive in this state. Be mindful of these thoughts, embrace them, nurture the part of you that created them and then reframe. There are many reasons why you may have gotten rejected that have nothing to do with you and are in fact a result of where the source of the rejection is in their current life. Maybe a potential place of employment was looking for someone with less/more experience than you had. It’s possible that your romantic interest is simply in a relationship, or going through a tough time and can’t give you the attention you deserve romantically right now. The outlining factors are endless and spending some time thinking about what they may be can help ease some pain (3).
3. Use this time to practice self-confidence:
One of the most important times to practice confidence is when dealing with rejection. Make a list of all the positive attributes you have and read that list to yourself a few times throughout the day. Text a friend and ask them what their favorite quality about you is and add that to the list. When you’re feeling rejected, it’s a crucial time to be your own best friend and lean on the supports you have to help you with this.
4. Give yourself a time limit:
Let yourself be sad, hurt and experiencing the range of the “emotions list” when this happens. It’s important to validate and embrace these emotions as they come. While doing so, give yourself a time limit on your grieving. For example, “I will give myself three days of feeling this way and then I will apply to three new jobs (2).”
If the feeling of rejection is something you’re struggling with, as always, we’re here to help.
1. 5 Basic Emotions - Motivation and Emotion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/emotionmotivationtutorial/emotion/5-basic-emotions
2. 5 Ways to Shake Off the Pain of Rejection. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201512/5-ways-shake-the-pain-rejection
3. How to Conquer the Fear of Rejection. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201812/how-conquer-the-fear-rejection