Ouch! Rejection



Have you ever called a friend on the weekend to invite him or her to do something with you, something that you're really excited about - and have them turn you down? Ouch! A twinge of rejection sets in. Or, have you ever asked for something in another language, but then, the person you asked says something to someone nearby, and they both start laughing? Ouch! "It's no big deal," you say. "I shouldn't feel hurt over this." Then, you try to ignore the pain.

Photo by  Luis Vaz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Luis Vaz on Unsplash

Psychologists have learned that we really do care far more than we realize. It's well researched, that even seemingly trivial rejection evokes sharp emotional pain. So, what can we expect, then, from deeply meaningful or prolonged rejection? The short answer is: the worst rejection.

The following is taken from "Rejection a Real Pain, Brain Study Shows" in Scientific American.


  • elicits devastating pain

  • rejects reason

  • often triggers anger and aggressive impulses

  • provokes self-criticism

Rejection is unique, in that the very same regions of the brain are activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain.

Additionally, it surpasses all other negative emotions in the magnitude of pain that it elicits. Rejection also scrambles our ability to think. Our reason, logic, and common sense become ineffective at alleviating the pain. Then, from the midst of the pain, can come a powerful urge to lash out, especially at those who hurt us or at anyone else nearby who will make a tempting target. And remember, reason won't be much help here either. Finally, rejection causes us to unnecessarily personalize the offense and to imagine all of our faults that led to it.

It makes sense after all. We were created as social beings - to exist in relationships, with a need to belong. Rejection threatens the core of our reason for being.

However, most personal rejections are rarely as personal as we experience them to be. Even when they are personal, they rarely involve sweeping indictments of our flaws. So what can you do to undo the effects of rejection? WARR against it.

What to do :


  • Take captive any thoughts of ascribing another's motive or planning vengeance.


  • Write out any negative or self-critical thoughts about the rejection.

  • Debate these by listing (in writing) what is good and true about you.

  • Remind yourself that most rejections are over interests, timing, or chemistry, not about who you are as a person.

  • Remind yourself immediately of what is good and true whenever a self-criticism comes to mind.

Photo by  Renata Fraga  on  Unsplash

Photo by Renata Fraga on Unsplash


  • Write out a list of five characteristics, attributes, or traits that you possess, those that you highly value. (Try to keep the list relevant to the context of the rejection.)

  • Rank your list in order of importance to you.

  • Choose two of the top three, and write a paragraph or two (or tell a friend) about: why the quality is important to you and how this quality influences your life.


  • Find others with a better fit for your interests and personality.

  • Have a social snack - look at photos of loved ones or dear friends, or hold a pet.

Rejection is an enemy to each of us, an enemy of our friends, and an enemy to our teams. I encourage us to take extra care with the way we speak to those around us. Remember, we are all susceptible to the pain of rejection.

This article is based on material from the book, "Emotional First Aid," by therapist Guy Winch.