Rejection is a painful experience that cuts straight to the core of our desire for belonging and loving connection.
It’s a loss, just like abandonment (another form of rejection); failure, disappointment, betrayals, and mistakes are losses.
Even if we might not think of them that way.
Most loss, when it opens us into grief, pulls up all our old, unmet grief as though a subterranean door in our hearts opens and the old pain seizes a chance to finally be freed.
Relational losses, like rejection, trigger older relational losses that might be difficult to place or even name because often these experiences have crystallized into shame in our unconscious.
Shame is relational, forming through relational losses, failures, and ruptures—but then most often directed inwardly into one’s relationship with self.
It is the grief of not having been loved in ways our most essential self needed.
It is the fear that we will not be loved (or belong) in the future.
When faced with rejection (or other relational losses), the mind is often responding to the shame, the deeper, unmetabolized pain, that is unconsciously stored in our relational muscle memory.
The thoughts come:
I am not good enough.
No one will ever love me.
What did I do wrong?
I must do whatever I can to make it work.
I will never let anyone into my heart again.
I’m a loser. I shouldn’t have done x, y, or z.
If I had only done x, y, or z…
And on, and on.
The mind is responding to the shame that we often do not recognize as shame.
While these thoughts we have about ourselves, love, or relationships are not true or real, the feelings these thoughts are responding to, the deep pain of not being met, seen, wanted, loved, acknowledged…are very, very real.
This makes feeling the pure grief of the loss of connection or love difficult to process because our unconscious response to these losses is from this deeper place of shame.
Not to mention the hefty conditioning most of us have around feeling grief in the first place.
Any new relational loss is like reopening this deep, precarious, and also, sacred, special place in us we haven’t quite learned the ways of.
This place, while at first can feel scary and overwhelming, holds a precise aspect of our self, like a Medusa or a Chiron, that carries a deep power.
A power to love, a power to pour care over the aches and the pains, a power that knows that grief is never ever personal.
It knows that this wound of not having been loved points us in the direction of where we would most like to feel free.
A power that knows that some pains, like grief, can never be healed but transmuted into more love, beauty, essence, meaning, wisdom, medicine, and flourishing.
A creative force that knows how to take this pain and turn it into art and erotic aliveness.
In the moment of our experience of rejection (or abandonment, betrayal, mistakes, failures, ruptures, or disappointments), we feel both the sting of our grief from the loss of an attachment or love and the heat of our shame at the very same time.
While none of us ever wants to feel these relational losses, one of the reasons we are more afraid of feeling the grief of these experiences is because we are afraid of what these experiences mean about us, which is our shame talking.
Any negative meaning we place on ourselves, others, relationships, or the future about the possibility of love is the grief of the past we project onto the future and translate into some human failing on our part.
Loss of any kind is not a personal failing on our part.
Impermanence is the only constant.
Relational loss is the same.
Things not working out is not a personal failing.
Are there things to learn?
Should we be trying to figure out the lessons to avoid our grief and shame?
With awareness, we can start to recognize a rejection as a loss we need to grieve.
We wouldn’t feel the grief if there wasn’t love there.
We can honor this, ritualize this, let the waves come.
Be kind to ourselves.
We can also cultivate the capacity to recognize the thought structure and physical energetics of our shame and meaning-making about the losses.
We can show up for the parts calling out to us, asking for our care, attention, and mourning of what we survived in the past.
We can assure ourselves we are safe. Here, we can invite the ones who haven’t been loved out of their caves to get to know them and integrate their goodness back into our hearts.
In this, we restore a basic sense of faith in ourselves, and the love we come to know is always there.
It won’t ever make relational loss hurt less, but it will free us, make us a little more fearless with our hearts, and help us feel the courage we need when it’s time leave things that are not so good for our hearts.