The Pain of Rejection (and what to do about it)

According to social researchers such as #BreneBrown, human beings are wired for connection. We thrive when we are in relationships with other people. Our love hormone, #oxytocin, helps us create social bonds and gets activated when we have positive interactions with others.

But what happens when we are rejected? Why does rejection hurt so much that many of us become afraid of it and avoid social contact whenever possible? And what can we do about it?

Rejection is when someone purposely ignores us, keeps us out of the loop when in a group gathering, or outright verbalizes that they don't want us around. Feeling excluded may trigger a negative core belief about ourselves that we're not #goodenough. If we begin to question ourselves and our self-worth as a result, we may experience a decrease in our confidence and a destabilization in our need to belong. It can shake our foundation.

A 2013 study by Northwestern University revealed that oxytocin gets activated even when rejection is at play. We feel hurt by the negative interaction between ourselves and the other person and we store that memory together with the negative emotions. Each subsequent time we recall what happened, the negative emotions rise to the surface again.

This phenomenon is not unique to rejection. Any time we have a traumatic experience where the negative emotions aren't dealt with, those emotions merge with the memory as it gets stored in our long term memory bank. When we retrieve the memory, the puzzle pieces, which are now fused together, get experienced in unison each time.

This is what often leads us to feeling #stuck in our lives, to having #emotionaltriggers, or to living out a #selffulfillingprophecy. But there is something we can do to change all this once and for all.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (#EMDR) is a therapy technique founded by Dr. #FrancineShapiro. Just as you move your eyes from left to right when you're in REM sleep to process the events of the day, so too Dr. Shapiro recognized that we can purposely move our eyes from side to side to stimulate both sides of the brain while thinking about the negative memory. By doing this, we can unlock the memory which allows us to release the negative emotions that are fused with it and change the way we remember the event.

This process is especially helpful for people who experience emotional triggers. By "emotional triggers" I am referring to times when you have an overreaction to an event. For example, your friend may have playfully rolled her eyes at you and in response you began having a panic attack. By changing the way the memory is stored in your brain, you can neutralize the emotional root and eliminate the triggers.

While EMDR is a powerful and relatively quick process, it is not for the faint of heart. Our tendency when we feel badly is to want to run away and avoid thinking about the pain. Instead, with EMDR we focus on the pain. As a result, it loses its grip on us.

In addition to EMDR, it is essential that we ensure our #corebeliefs about ourselves and others are up to date. This requires that we examine our beliefs, how they came to be, and whether they are serving us.

Lastly, know that not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to be nice and inclusive. And it's not always about you. Their lack of inclusion may be an indication of their low levels of confidence, especially if they view you as a threat to their social hierarchy.

At the end of the day, if you know yourself and love yourself the way that you are, you will find people who treat you as you deserve to be treated and you can leave the others behind. They aren't worth it.

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