A friend of mine told me once that she was ‘dumped’ by her lover of four years through an indifferent email. Needless to say she felt acutely defenseless at that time and had plummeted into the so-called depths of despair, but after a decent mourning period now she feels like the one who has had the good riddance.
‘You know Nazia’, she jovially confessed, ‘Some lovers live happily ever after, some live happily even after!’
A carefree laughter accompanied this brave declaration of hers and I could not help but marvel at the vibrant and positive outlook she has developed to something as downbeat and heartbreaking as rejection. Fundamentally speaking, rejection is the ending of a relationship, a dream or a hope, and it often is the most dreadful moment of our lives.
Most of the time we are in partial denial of its existence until it hits us suddenly with a force and catches us unaware. Rejection comes in many forms. We feel rejected when we don’t get a job we badly wanted, a seat in a particular college, a house we had set our heart and dreams on, or a lover we were deeply in love with has decided to walk away.
The doomed announcement of rejection may come in a letter, email, or a fax, written out in black and white. Or maybe it was hinted rather catastrophically, during a telephone conversation. Unlike my friend who turned it around later to call being dumped as the best gift from her callous lover, most of us do feel the agony of rejection for quite a long time and it does slowly and surely seep into our psyche to leave us feeling washed up, deserted, and high and dry.
Sigmund Freud said, “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love, never so unhelplessly unhappy as when we have lost our loved object or its love.” True. Rejection feels terribly painful. It often feels like a physical hurt, as if something is slowly breaking down inside us and we just have no power over it. Sometimes when we are going through pains of rejection, it feels like a global conspiracy. Someone we smiled at did not smile back as warmly and it would twirl our heart into feeling miserable. The gatekeeper did not smile as cheerfully as other days while opening the door in a shopping mall. The saleswoman did not attend to us sooner, and we feel the entire universe has conspired against us to make us feel rejected.
Rejection is also the trigger for many suicides and acts as the propeller of depressive feelings. I have worked for sometime in a suicide intervention center and have come across many a weeping eyes and wailing hearts who just want to curl up and die because they have been rejected by their lovers. They are quick to brand themselves as ugly, unwanted and hopeless just because someone they had pinned all their hopes upon has rejected them.
Well, rejection hurts. It hurts like hell. But do you know that paradoxically it is also a moment of supreme potential? Would you believe that the ending of a dream or a passion has great power and energy hidden in its realms? I know it is hard to believe because all our belief systems keep screaming that rejection is so painful! And during that particularly dark phase of our lives we just cannot accept the notion that the new situation in our lives has opened up the entrance to many opportunities.
The main reason why we see it as pain and not power is because we see it as loss of control. Most of us fear loss of control, because we tend to use it in our interaction with another human beings, especially in close relationships, as a powerful tool. When we determinedly believe that we need to have control of our lives then we will suffer grave pain in rejection. But if we relinquish control and begin to believe in the supremacy of surrender, then we will not feel the anguish of rebuff so extremely and the rejection will feel like the opening of a new door.
Just like my friend, who had told me later that she was actually in an abusive relationship and would have never been able to come out of it on her own as she lacked the will to be the one to end it. Her self-esteem was getting corroded every single day and like many emotionally abused women who claim to love too much, she also took it in her stride. When her lover ended it all one fine day, she was free to see things more rationally and realize what it means to be truly happy. The rejection had opened new doors for her and she was ready to find a new love with a much better person, who would respect her as a woman, as a human being, and give her the love and honor that she deserved.
How we turn the despair of rejection into a powerful experience is in our own hands, but of course it isn’t that easy. We will have to train our thoughts to see that there is always a lesson in rejection. We will have to work hard to re-invent our views, and to see the good in it, in order to help ourselves move forward in life. We will have to learn that rejection is a decision. Although the person who is doing the rejection appears to be more in control, we fail to see our participation in rejection when we are nursing our wounds. It is hard to believe that there are many decisions that we as the rejected one had unconsciously made that had given that power to the one doing the rejection. But we must know this: That just as it takes two to humiliate, it takes two to reject. Why we feel rejected is because we had given the other person, event, or happening that much power to control our responses and reactions.
The second option is to choose our reaction. If we stop seeing the rejection as someone’s power over us, then the rejection will hurt less. We must question ourselves that if someone or something can get a reaction out of us, one that causes such heartache, pain and agony, where have we been ourselves anyway? This kind of powerful thinking takes practice and is not gained in one day, but it is all about self-love that we need to hone for ourselves everyday until it becomes a natural habit.
It is ultimately our choice whether we feel humiliated by rejection or not. If only we learn the serenity of choice and decision in the face of all the horrors we are facing due to this awful feeling of rejection, it will hurt less. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between bad luck and new beginnings, but rejections often carry a secret message and we can actually be taught to see that tiny glow in the darkness of forsakenness and emerge a stronger and more confident person. It is all about turning over the stale, damp pages and switch on to the next new chapter. To live happily, even after.
Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better. Click here for your FREE issue.
By Nazia Mallick, Ode Magazine