Fear of rejection – a presenting situation
A man comes to see me for psychotherapy who has a fear of rejection.
He explains this fear holds him back from developing lasting relationships with people. All of his relationships go through a self-fulfilling pattern, and they all end because of his fear of rejection.
When he meets someone new, there is an initial feeling of excitement and opportunity. As they become involved things can go well, and the relationships develops quickly. Then things start to change.
‘it is always the same, everything starts well, I can become quite involved and then something will worry me and I rapidly start losing confidence.
I become convinced that I am being rejected. I start to see signs of disinterest in my girlfriend’s face, the way she looks at me.
Pretty quickly the whole thing breaks down and I am alone again.
I feel terrible. Each time it happens I feel worse. And the thing is I may have really hurt someone. I have to find a way to break this cycle. It’s me who fears the rejection, and yet really I end up rejecting them.’
The pattern this client describes, of fearing rejection and yet ending up being the person who does the rejecting is not uncommon. The experience of insecurities being set off, of the cycle repeating itself is not unusual.
Where does our fear of rejection come from?
Typically, someone who has developed a fear of rejection will themselves have been raised in an environment in which the fear of rejection was present and powerful.
These kind of fears often develop out of childhood experience, perhaps through feeling rejected by a parent. Perhaps through being overlooked in favour of another sibling.
For some people this sense of early childhood rejection casts a long shadow over the whole of life.
‘In my family it was very difficult for me. I felt from a very early age that my father rejected me in favour of my sister. It was terribly painful. I tried all sorts of things to repair the relationship but nothing seemed to work. It left me feeling ashamed, weak, vulnerable.
Though professionally I work my socks off, and get all of these good things done, I never feel it’s good enough. I always feel I am about to be rejected.
I am haunted by this feeling. Whatever I do, I never manage to shake it off.’
Childhood experiences and fears of rejection
Where there are these childhood experiences and fears of rejection there will most likely be problems in other areas of life. Children who feel rejected are vulnerable.
Ideally we would all have a satisfying nurturing experience of fitting in. If we don’t we can feel like outcasts. In earlier times a rejected member of the group or tribe would be vulnerable to external predators.
In school, we want to be able to fit in. Feeling rejected by our peer group makes us vulnerable and particularly unhappy.
In working life the fear of being rejected makes it hard to concentrate on delivering consistent quality work. The fear of one’s ideas being rejected, of being an outsider can provoke powerful feelings of shame.
Franz Kafka’s relationship with his father
There’s evidence from Kafka‘s diary and from other sources that suggests that his relationship with his father, Hermann Kafka was very difficult. Hermann Kafka was abusive and controlling, and constantly rejected his son and referred to him as a failure.
Franz Kafka’s short story ‘The Metamorphosis’ can be read as a comment on the difficult father son relationship. The father in the story is overbearing, powerful, judgmental, and abusive, and the son is quiet, reclusive, abused and rejected. It is a powerful emotional tale. A strained father-son relationship is a theme Kafka turned to in two other stories.
Transforming the fear of rejection in psychotherapy
Being prepared to face the feelings, the fear, the hurt, being prepared to face our old wounds may be the beginning of learning to live differently.
Working in a confidential psychotherapy relationship may help to find a new way of living with the fear of rejection.
If we can become more prepared to do so, we start to acknowledge the wounds we carry, the scars that we have. We try to accept them.
We don’t reject ourselves for having this fear of being rejected. We work on becoming more able to accept ourselves, old wounds and all.
It is easy for the old experiences of rejection to be reactivated, but it may be that we can develop greater resilience, a greater capacity to think about it. By doing so we develop a new possibility to avoid repeating the old pattern of rejection.
We may be able to develop the capacity to look more closely at our fear of rejection, and as we do so we may reduce the way in which it dominates our lives and relationships. We may find ways to break the repeating patterns.
Working in psychotherapy we take the feelings of rejection seriously. Therapy provides a confidential setting in which we can develop a greater sense of engagement and to find a way to live despite the presence of the fear.I have a depth of experience of working with people suffering from a fear of rejection
Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.