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Do you remember how you felt when you failed that math test back in school?

Or when your application for inclusion in that sports team was rejected? Or more recently, when that job application didnt work out? Even more recently, when you felt rejection in your relationship as your last girlfriend or boyfriend dumped you? Weve all been there. Rejection has been, and will be, as normal a part of your (or anyones) life as your daily mail. Still, it hurts. Even though weve experienced it a hun dred times, each rejection is a new wound. Rejection hurts and its real.

What is rejection?
Rejection (in the context of a relationship social or romantic) basically means exclusion from a group, an interaction, information, communication or emotional intimacy. When someone deliberately excludes you from any of these, your brain tells you that youre experiencing rejection. The psychological term for this type of rejection is Social Rejection. Does rejection hurt? We all know it does it feels lousy, especially in the context of a romantic relationship. Should it hurt? Many self-help gurus and personal development books will tell you that it shouldnt, using one or more of the following myths.

Myth #1. Happiness is a choice, not an outcome. You can choose to be happy irrespective of external circumstances. Myth #2. You dont need anyones approval in order to feel happy. The only person whose approval you need is your own. Myth #3. If youre not happy alone, youll never be happy in a relationship.

Truth is, that each of these has been proven as scientifically untenable through psychological research. According to Prof. C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, of the University of Kentucky, the need to belong, or the need to have strong and fulfilling relationships is as fundamental to human nature as is the need for food and water. Research establishes that its not only natural to experience severe mental agony as a result of rejection, but its also as real as physical pain.

7 Simple ways to handle rejection

So does that mean theres no way to alleviate your pain of rejection? Fortunately, thats not the case. You cant wish away the pain of r ejection, but you can control when you feel rejected. Here are 7 proven steps to do just that.


Be conscious of differences
Each person in this world has a different reality. In any given situation, two people can never think or react in (exactly) the same way.

No one else sees the same world as you do. Hence its not only possible, but in fact likely, that people will behave differently from how you expect them to behave (in other words, how you wouldve behaved if you were them) in a certain situation. This expectation-reality gap often gives rise to feelings of rejection and hurt in people. The first step to avoid unwarranted feelings of rejection is to acknowledge this difference.


Force yourself to think of more than one possible outcomes

The rule of thumb that I follow to avoid surprise reactions from people in any situation is, instead of having one particular expected outcome in mind, I force myself to objectively imagine at least two possible reactions, one mandatorily less positive than the other. I also try and find a few supporting reasons why each reaction could occur.


Have reasons for each possible outcome

Let me explain with an example. Lets say, youre going to ask a girl out. Dont expect that shell accept (in which case youll feel rejected if she doesnt), but dont expect that shell reject either (in which case you might be so under -confident while asking her out that she might reject you anyway! ). Tell yourself, There are two possible outcomes of this situation. First, she could accept my offer because Im a handsome, smart, fun guy (use whatever reasoning you want, but make sure you come up with at least 2-3 reasons). Second, she might also reject me because at the moment she might not be interested in dating at all, she could be already seeing someone else, or she might need different qualities in a potential date/boyfriend than the ones which I have.


Be objective in your analysis

As you can see, this reasoning exercise achieves two goals. One, it forces you to visualize, objectively, both the positive and negative outcomes of any situation, thereby mentally preparing you for the negative outcome. Secondly, it also looks at the negative outcome in a way which is as objective as possible, thereby minimizing the feelings of personalization associated with the negative outcome. Notice that in this particular example, youve identified three possible reasons for a rejection, two of which are entirely unrelated to you or your qualities. At the same time youre also being honest and realistic by including one possible reason which involves you. However, even in that case youre being highly objective by rightly pointing out that its not about whether you and your qualities are good enough for her or not, its just that she might need something different from what youve got to offer.


Avoid personalization of every outcome

This brings me to one of the most important aspects of handling rejection successfully, which is totally avoiding feelings of rejection where they are unwarranted and unnecessary.

Again, Im not here to tell you that you can avoid feeling hurt by feeding yourself some distorted version of reality (in oth er words, positive self-talk). Id only like to draw your attention to the fact that often you (and I, and most eo ple) interpret a situation as a rejection (your exclusion from something) when it is not. Im talking about the common human tendency of over -personalizing negative outcomes. Going back to the earlier example, its important that you recognize that any r ejection in general is largely unrelated to whether you are good enough for something (or someone) or not. It only means what youve got to offer, and what is needed by someone (or something) are not the same. Look at it as the lid of Bottle 1 not fitting Bottle 2, simply because its not made for that purpose, rather than for not being big enough, or small enough.


Actively seek alternative connections

However, when it comes to relationships, unfortunately all possible sources of rejection are not so simple. Feelings of rejection can be caused by issues like your everyday expectations not being met by your partner, an incidence of infidelity or a real shocker like a sudden announcement by your partner of their desire to leave. In such cases its not possible for you to be prepared for the feelings of rejection. Its real. It hurts. And you have to deal with it. The healthiest and quickest way to recover is to find a sense of belonging through other connections. According Prof. Eisenberger from UCLA, lead researcher in the domain of psychological research on rejection, positive interactions with people cause a definite mood boost in humans, by releasing chemicals which facilitate pleasurable reactions in the brain. Actively seek out friends and family if youre going through a phase of experiencing feelings of rejection from your partner. Try to invest yourself emotionally in these relationships.


Reduction in emotional dependence actually strengthens love

Shift your focus from your partner. Use the pain of rejection to find other reasons to live. Pick up an old and forgotten hobby, maybe. Pursue it and connect with like-minded people. In some time youll find youre able to derive emotional nutrition from these connections. That will not only help you recuperate from your emotional hurt, but also prepare you for solving any issue at hand together with your partner in the near future. Am I telling you to force yourself to fall out of love with your partner? No. What I am telling you however, is to stop being emotionally needy.

Remember, loving your partner and being unable to function without their emotional support are not the same thing at all. The first is healthy, while the second is not. In fact once youve been able to overcome your emotional needy -ness, your relationship will improve greatly as your partner finds fresh reasons to fall back in love with the new you.