Thursday, April 2, 2009

My rejection saga

To those of us who knew the pain
of valentines that never came
and those whose names were never called
when choosing sides for basketball.
--Janis Ian

I've been writing about a lot of non-recovery fun stuff for the past couple of days. So today I decided to get back to the "heavy" stuff, even though my heart is light on this rainy day.

Heather actually asked me to write about rejection and abandonment from my experience. So that's what I'm blogging on today.

This may be a bit long because rejection is an early issue for me. It started probably as something innocuous. But then it grew, became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and took on a life of its own.

I don't know the age when I started to feel rejection but possibly it happened very early. I remember scoldings from my father. I remember being singled out by a teacher to stand in front of the entire lunchroom in second grade. I remember other school yard rejections. And I remember being dumped by my first love.

These are all pretty normal things though. What I didn't understand is how deeply these things affected me. I've done some reading about fear of abandonment and rejection because these fears form my main character defect.

Evidently, if someone has a few traumatic rejections, then every time their needs aren't met, they may filter feelings through the lens of rejection. That is what I do. Whenever I am in a situation that suggests abandonment or rejection, I start thinking that the worst is going to happen. And surprisingly, it usually does because I drive people away from me.

I have done this in several ways. Probably my favorite is to look to others to validate how lovable I am. Another is to panic and let the fear of rejection smother any love that I had. I've also rejected others first (before they dumped me). So in many ways, I actually created a situation in which what I fear most (rejection) will happen.

So I have tended to fall in love with women who are unavailable emotionally, or who are unreliable with their emotions and aren't capable of loving me the way that I wanted. This is probably why so many of us codies are in relationships with alcoholics.

And I know that these were not random choices for me but a decision at some level to have a relationship with someone who was also feeling lonely, rejected, unaccepted, unappreciated or insecure. In short, I fell in love with my mirror image.

My wife was a party girl. She was about as emotionally slippery as an eel. She could be powerfully passive though and that was the emotional hook for me. For much of our relationship, I never knew what to expect. So I lived in a state of anxiety and fear. I know that I didn't cause the drinking, but I have wondered why she stuck with me when I was such a pain in the ass. Now I know that we were like two magnets drawn to each other.

So the hard part of accepting this about myself has been to acknowledge that if I don't do something about this fear (my no. 1 defect), I'll continue to be drawn to people who will reject and abandon me over and over.

I have learned that others don't define me, I do. I've learned that no one else gets to determine whether I am lovable. Only I do that. I've learned that I have to fill the void within me that wants to believe that I'm not worthy of love. I've learned to make a list of affirmations about myself. I've learned to do things that make me happy and that meet my needs. I've learned to ask for what I need in a healthy way and not in a "hostage taking" way. And I've learned to make amends to those who I harmed through my messed up behavior.

When I consider that my father, my mother, my wife, and my friends have all experienced rejections of their own, I have compassion. I begin to see the truth: that we are each insecure, frightened and unsure at times. And the biggest truth of all is that the God of my understanding loves each of us, no matter how imperfect we are.


  1. This post really spoke to me. I have similar fears of abandonment and rejection. Recently I've started to examine my reactions to people and situations closely. I've begun to challenge my ego's loud voice when it tells me that if I expose who I really am than I will be rejected. When I was seven I was adopted by Canadians. I had to leave my birth family who I knew very well and come to a new place. I think it is the experience of that trauma that colours every perception I have.

    I've been reading your blog for days now. I love your openness about your feelings and your thoughts. I don't know how long you've been married but it seems to me that you and your wife are finally beginning to really love each other. I think it is a journey many of us married folk need to go on. When I read your 110 things about me post, I was struck still when you said that you were not sure whether marriage was a good idea or not.
    I've got alot more to read on your blog:)

  2. Thank you for opening yourself up in the post, Syd. I think you do the recovery world a big service when you let your vulnerability and thoughtfulness show.

    I did get my feathers ruffled a bit when you said something about alcoholics being emotionally unreliable. I'm sure you meant "many" and not "all." But then again, erhm, it just might be my issue not yours if it bothers me when you generalize like that. I guess it's because I often identify quite a lot with what you write about rejection versus being an emotional rollarcoaster, dramatic or self-aggrandizing sort.

  3. Syd this was both insightful and inspirational for me today. Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts down so eloquently.

  4. Syd...How this hits home today as I felt the smack of rejection so strong from Cave Man last night that I ended it as I can't deal with what I perceive as inability to be open and honest. It's scary not to know where I stand. I know I am worthy and I want him to love me as I do him, but he's emotionally unavailable. I've known that and have seen it but refused to honestly acknowledge it until now. I am finally moving on as hard and as sad as that is for me. I left the door open in case he ever decides I am worth that effort. It hurts, but I am growing and learning every day. Bless you my friend! Lisa

  5. Excellent post Syd. I have oftentried to pinpoint the moment when the fear of rejection moved into my soul. Sometime in childhood I guess, a lot of the things you wrote about your school days also applied to me. The neediness of later life that disgusted me and the awakening that the values had to be in something other than "them". Great post Syd. Thank you.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Syd! Its a good one. I am still not sure if my actions (which are similar to some of the things you described here are related to fear of rejection or fear of someone getting too close to me...or maybe they are the same thing? Either way you've provided some food for thought.

  7. I think we all know something about rejection first hand. I remember telling someone in the sixth grade that I liked one of the most popular girls in class and then being referred to by that girl for the rest of the year as "that thing."

    And I was a codependant in training as I entered adulthood. Some of the women I dated had some real bad problems, and some were on their way to become alcoholics.

    My wife and I go through periods of depression and she has panic attacks. We get through them together and are working on getting help.

  8. As we go through life, read the many psychological articles available,and work a program we can start to see a pattern in our life. Everyone has a "pattern". Self awareness and being teachable are the first steps. There are steps in between, and some might really benefit from professional help. The end result, which is identifying your knee jerk reactions and trying to alter those patterns, is the most freeing thing in the world.
    Good, thoughtful post.

  9. Powerfully honest.

    I have to say THANK G*D for Al-Anon in MY LIFE for almost 21 months.

    I met Schreck when I only had 6 months in... and thankfully I stucked with it when he tried to sabotage me from attending meetings.

    You wrote about PASSIVE.. (Schreck was so PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE). I'm so happy I did not get engaged in December to him. I have that distance and perspective now.

    I'm getting MORE WHOLE..........and he would have stunted my growth... it was a struggle at times. Him coming to my meetings on false pretense... (his dad was an alcholic but he only went to hinder my growth).(long story).

    When you are in a marriage you should do the best to make it work morally............but since I'm not marry to him.......thank G*D I'm not.

    I want to become Whole and have Whole relationship.......with all types of relationship..

    I'm loving myself more.

    Wow what a REAL............(((HUGS))

  10. Really loved what you wrote about others not defining us, or determining whether or not we are lovable.
    Great post, Syd, thanks for being so open.

  11. Syd, thank you so much for your willingness to help a friend in need. There were many things said here that I realize are truths in my own life. Self-fulfilling prophecy. This phrase perfectly describes my life and literally made the hair on the back of my neck raise up. I spent all of my time expecting the worst and then telling myself if something better happened, I would be pleasantly surprised. It doesn't work that way, does it?

    Looking back I'm starting to see that I've always been very intuitive. For a very little girl, this gift became a curse. Every crinkled brow, flare of anger in another persons eyes, the tone of voice, the words spoken, the words not spoken...they resonated in my head and were interpreted as: You aren't worthy. You aren't good enough or smart enough or pretty enough.

    Couple that with sexual abuse and well, it ain't pretty. But here's the deal. I SURVIVED!!! I didn't want to survive. I really wanted to die. God had a different plan. And I am so incredibly grateful that His plans were so different from my own.

    With your permission, I would like to meditate on your words and then write about my experience. You're honesty has given me the courage to go there. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Right?

    {{{Hugs to you}}} God bless you and yours, Syd.

  12. Probably the most magnificent post I've read on the Internet. I really mean it.

    I'll be quoting from you one day, for sure.

  13. Ooh this is a big one for me. I still tend to push others away. Making new friends is difficult for me, I don't usually let anyone get TOO close. I am working on it, but its sooo hard. Thanks for an awesome post.

  14. what truth-filled words you speak. how appropriate that at the moment i'm in an exercise of seperating fact from fiction. i've always said i was a criminal in my previous life, 'cause whenever i get asked a question or something unexpected happens, i automatically assume the 'guilt' pose. and that's from a learnt childhood reaction of rather accepting the blame, than fighting back. so now, whenever anything happens, i ask myself what FACTS do i have to back up those feelings of terror, fear and rejection, and usually, there is maybe only one, so i can consciously tell myself, i have nothing to fear... and this is beginning to work rather well...

  15. Nice post. Glad to hear you realize these issues for yourself.

  16. Excellent, excellent post!

    Thanks for visiting my blog today. Yes, we may be lambs as our states suffer without the stimulus dollars. Our governor has turned down (rejected!) the money also.

  17. Yep. We're all fighting the same battle.

  18. AGAIN is as if you just wrote my story as well as your own.

  19. This really struck home with me today. Thanks for putting into words how fear of abandonment can mess us up and how we CAN and DO recover if we use the tools that AA and Al-Anon give us.


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