Rejections are the emotional cuts and scrapes of daily life. We get turned down by romantic partners, our colleagues get together without inviting us, our spouses rebuff our sexual advances, our neighbors don’t invite us to their holiday parties, and our friends ignore our posts and Tweets on social media platforms.
The one thing all rejections have in common is they really hurt. As scientists recently discovered, even mild rejections can really sting because the same pathways in our brain get activated when we experience rejections as get activated when we experience physical pain. Therefore, even those of us who think of ourselves as stoic, are likely to nurse hurt feelings after getting rejected, even if we try not to show it. Recognizing we are hard wired to experience rejections as painful is crucial for men, as we might otherwise struggle to make sense of our hurt feelings and in some cases, find ourselves questioning our strength of character and even our masculinity.
Given how powerfully rejections impact us emotionally, it is easy to understand why men’s behavioral responses to rejection are often problematic and psychologically unhealthy. Think back to the last time you felt rejected and consider if your way of coping included one or more of the following:
Anger and aggression: Rejection often elicits surges of anger and aggression that we then take out on innocent bystanders such as walls, doors, and tables. Although the vast majority of men are not violent toward people, rejection-fueled aggression has been found to be a significant cause in incidents of teen violence and violence toward women. Therefore, always anticipate feeling angry after a rejection and be mindful to not direct your irritability toward family members, friends, or colleagues.
Drinking: One of the reasons many of us reach for a drink after getting dumped by a romantic partner is that alcohol can numb both our anger and our emotional pain. But while the effects of alcohol wear off after a number of hours, the effects of having our hearts stomped on do not. Numbing our pain with substances (whether alcohol, drugs, or even food) is never a good solution as it prevents us from taking action to directly address our emotional wounds. Instead, give thought to what went wrong, figure out what, if anything, you should do differently in the future, and get support from those who value and appreciate you.
Gambling: Researchers surveyed men and asked them how often they felt socially excluded (i.e., rejected) and how they spent their leisure time. The more people reported feeling rejected, the more they reported engaging in gambling on horse races and in casinos. Rejection can make us feel we have little control over crucial aspects of our lives. The allure of gambling is that it holds the promise of a large financial payoff and we tend to associate money with a feeling of control. The problem is gambling is also a great way to lose money and feel even less in control and it is extremely unlikely one would win a large enough sum to actually make a difference in one’s life. Therefore, be mindful to avoid gambling and other forms of financial risk taking (such as making investment decisions) in the immediate aftermath of a rejection.
Self-criticism: One of the more unfortunate things we do after a rejection is become highly self-critical. We list our faults and our shortcomings, we call ourselves ‘loser’ and ‘idiot,’ and we have a running dialogue in our head that is self-critical at best and downright abusive at worst.
By doing so we’re essentially kicking our self-esteem when it’s already down and supersizing our emotional pain and the damage to our confidence and self-worth in the process. Although we might feel such self-criticism is ‘justified,’ it actually serves no positive purpose whatsoever. Instead, do the opposite and take steps to nurture your self-esteem back to health by focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
Withdrawing: Getting rejected often makes us feel raw and vulnerable, to shy away from putting ourselves ‘out there’ and risk another rejection. A romantic breakup might make us declare we’re taking a break from dating, our spouse rebuffs our sexual advances and we decide to stop initiating sex, or we discover a couple of colleagues had after-work drinks without us and we avoid them to make the point that we don’t ‘need’ their friendship. The problem with such withdrawal strategies is they often become self-fulfilling prophecies. By avoiding romantic, sexual, or social connections we minimize any likelihood of feeling desired, needed, or appreciated and we prolong and deepen our feelings of rejection. Instead, try taking small emotional risks by engaging others and finding ways to continue pursuing romantic, sexual or social opportunities.
Avoiding these fiver unhealthy reactions to rejection and focusing on more adaptive responses will help ease your emotional wounds, prevent long term damage to your self-esteem and emotional well-being, and allow you to bounce back quicker and stronger than you might otherwise.
Image Credit: Frompo
Guest Blogger Bio:
Guy Winch Ph.D. is a psychologist, speaker and author whose books have been translated into a dozen languages. He is also a regular blogger for Psychology Today.com and Huffington Post.com. His most recent book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries is available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook online, on iTunes, and in bookstores. More information, links to his articles, video, audio, is available on his website at www.guywinch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @GuyWinch.