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Are You Sensitive To Rejection? What Does This Really Mean? - Relationships, Self-development
Are You Sensitive To Rejection? What Does This Really Mean? - Relationships, Self-development

Video: Are You Sensitive To Rejection? What Does This Really Mean? - Relationships, Self-development

Video: Are You Sensitive To Rejection? What Does This Really Mean? - Relationships, Self-development
Video: Why Fearful Avoidants Can Shut Down SO Strongly When Rejected 2023, March

Of course, no one likes to be rejected. It is painful for anyone. But what then does the term “rejection-sensitive” mean? This issue is especially important because many women who have an under-optimal or outright toxic relationship with their mothers often hear that their emotional reactions are the result of their "oversensitivity."

I remember well how my mother used to say exactly these words to me whenever I objected to her unpleasant or derogatory words about me; and it was only recently that I realized that calling someone “too sensitive” is just a way of enduring guilt and justifying my abuse.

So what exactly are we talking about? Let's see what science says.

Some people are actually more sensitive to rejection

Perhaps a more accurate term would be “wary of rejection”. It is this quality that people with anxious-anxious attachment styles display: they are constantly on the alert to see signs of rejection. Their anxiety about rejection leads to the fact that they easily begin to see such signs, and often misinterpreting signals from others in situations of interaction with them.

Imagine walking into your office kitchen to pour yourself a cup of coffee. You see several colleagues there, having a conversation. Do you immediately feel that they are gossiping about you if they immediately shut up when they see you? Or maybe you see a colleague or acquaintance on the street on a day off. You wave your hand to greet him, but he doesn't answer. Do you immediately think that you are being neglected, or just assume that he did not notice? Do you feel rejected when two of your acquaintances make plans without including you in them - even if you really have no interest in what they are going to do? Are you concerned about the order in which people are invited to a party? Do you feel rejected after learning that someone was invited before you?

People who are sensitive to rejection usually have a tendency to admit that they have been neglected or rejected - for some reason or another.

“Strong alertness” is not a metaphor either

This is what a 2007 study by Lisa Burkland found on a small sample. Being able to “read” facial expressions and react to them is an important part of our security system. This also includes the ability to distinguish friend from enemy, on the basis of which it can be concluded that it is necessary to "run or fight."

But how do you interpret facial expressions that are neither overtly threatening nor welcoming? For example, expressions that convey feelings of disapproval? Using MRI scans, the researchers found that indeed people with a high sensitivity to rejection show more intense nervous system responses to disapproval. This means that their premonition of rejection takes place on a physical level.

Sensitivity to rejection and the creation of interpersonal drama

Being overly vigilant makes many social interactions difficult. For example, a request for help is loaded with additional meanings, and if a person hears objections or a direct "no", then he has strong emotions. The result is unpleasant emotional turbulence, especially in intimate relationships.

This has been confirmed by research by Geraldine Downey and others; Ironically, it is the emotional reactions to perceived rejection that can eventually cause a partner to end the relationship. One of the men I interviewed vividly described how exhausting a relationship with such a person is:

In fact, the problem was that no matter how much I persuaded in my love, it was always not enough. She started to get anxious when I came home an hour late or did not answer the text. She took it too personally when I was in a meeting and couldn't answer the phone. Even if she knew in advance that I would be busy at this time, it still did not help. She began to spin like a whirligig, and then get very angry and blame me. We went to a psychologist several times, but on the same day she again began to push me. I'm just tired of all this drama.

I have heard this story many times. It is often very difficult for a daughter who is sensitive to rejection to see herself clearly. Alas, it is much easier for her to believe her mistaken perception than the assurances of her partner.

Do you have a tendency to get anxious when your partner does not immediately call back or forgets to text the message as promised? Do you constantly worry about his loyalty and devotion? Is your anxiety escalating into anger?

Recognize your sensitivity to rejection

The best way is to work with a talented therapist, but there are a few things you can do for yourself if you feel like you are sensitive to rejection. These ideas are taken from my book Detox for Daughter: How to Heal Your Relationship with an Unloving Mother and Take Your Own Life.

1. Think about the source of your sensitivity

If you exhibit an anxious-anxious attachment style, reflecting on how you have been treated in your own family and how it affected you can lead to an understanding of what drives you in the present.

2. Work on identifying triggers for your behavior

The key is to be aware of the situations that usually trigger your sensitivity to rejection. Does this happen more often in a group or just as often in private with someone? What upsets you the most? Knowing your typical reactions ahead of time can help you deal with excessive emotions.

3. Use the Stop-Look-Listen Technique

Years ago, a psychologist taught me this technique to deal with overreaction. I took it as one of the steps in the healing process described in my book Detox for Daughter.

When you see that you start to "wind up" yourself, give yourself a mental time-out, and if possible, physically remove yourself from the situation or collision that became the reason. This is the stop part. Then you need to look at the situation and ask yourself if your reaction is reasonable, or if it is excessive and the situation is not what it seems to you at first glance. Finally, you need to listen to your thoughts, as well as the words spoken by the other person, and make sure that your reaction relates to the actual context of the situation.

Rejection sensitivity affects all of your interactions and relationships, but it can be dealt with. Be proactive


  • Burkland, Lisa J, Naomi I. Eisenberger, and Matthew D. Leiberman. The Face of Rejection: Rejection Sensitivity Moderates Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Activity to Disapproving Facial Expressions. Social Neuroscience, 2007, vol. 2 (3-4), pp. 238-253.
  • Downey, Geraldine, and Scott I. Feldman. Implications of Rejection Sensitivity for Intimate Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1996, vol. 70 (6), pp. 1327-1343.
  • Downey, Geraldine, Antonio L. Freitas, Benjamin Michaelis, and Hala Khouri. The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Close Relationships: Rejection Sensitivity and Rejection by Romantic Partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998, vol. 75 (2), pp. 545
  • By Peg Streep
  • Translated by Kiril Melamud

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