One of our basic human needs is to be able to feel a sense of connection to others. So important is this need that our body has an inbuilt, innate resource which helps us to make those important connections. It is called rapport, winning ways, which even babies demonstrate from a very early age! In essence humans are hard wired to get along together. Sadly, a range of different research trials have shown, which we all equally intuitively know, that if an individual feels excluded or rejected, it can have a negative impact on their lives.
This is because human behaviour is internally regulated, by the same physiological system that helps us build rapport, to ensure that that we all do ‘get along’. It’s often termed self control and is part of our socialisation. If an individual feels excluded, isolated and rejected, that need to remain ‘socialised’ may seem pointless and the self control can be overridden. One of the likely results is that the individual will express far more aggression.
The conundrum, of course, is that aggressive people tend to be further excluded (like pupils in school for example), who then band together with others who have been excluded, to live on the ‘margins of society’. The outwardly aggressive ones who, as it is often termed ‘act out’, normally stand out and are visible to a society that ‘tuts’ and excludes them further.
Less obvious are those that ‘act in’ whose aggression is turned inwards towards themselves or into becoming ‘people pleasers’. Their torment is expressed differently, often by an internal sense of not fitting in or of being on the edge of the family, friends or the community. It can be a place of desolation and desperation, even though they may be an outwardly busy and competent manager, parent, employee, friend or carer. That fact alone can make the isolation even greater and incomprehensible, as they are often bewildered that those around them cannot see their (well hidden) pain.
Life events can knock as all badly and overtime we may all need just a little help and support. For many of us that support is readily available and accessible to our extended network or community. But those who may have experienced deep rejection are less likely to be able to cope or access that support. They may simply not know how to. Rejection could well have affected both social relationships and social confidence, both of which are important for the resilience of being able to weather life’s storms.
A sense of rejection may come in and from many sources; from parental alienation (which itself may have many forms), from a job, love interest or some other form of passion. It seems also that recent research shows that, along with parental rejection, targeted rejection (or bullying) has the greatest impact of all. This may be because our parents and community are the basic building blocks of another critical need, which is a need for security. If a person is specifically alienated from that support, it is not hard to understand the immeasurable amount of pain that could be experienced.
This suffering may show itself as a depressed or even dysfunctional thinking style. Alongside the emotional affects of that, the physical body may suffer too, for example maybe with a propensity towards obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This may compound the overall sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
The first step to recover and heal is, as ever is awareness of the needs and acknowledgement of the fact that it is not being met. The next is to appreciate that getting past such rejection is possible, need not take years and does not require the constant talking about what has happened. With the right support a ‘can do’ attitude can quickly replace that sense of helplessness.
It is not strange that the first step to overcoming rejection is to be accepting and then be shown, taught and learn how to be accepted. Counselling starts the process and should be designed to empower the client towards their own recovery.
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Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
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