Deconstructing the Fear of Rejection Reply

Flickr Image by Mahalie

Flickr Image by Mahalie

What are we really afraid of?

by John Amodeo, PhD, MFT in Intimacy, A Path Toward Spirituality

The fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears. Biologically wired with a longing to belong, we fear being seen in a critical way. We’re anxious about the prospect of being cut off, demeaned, or isolated. We fear being alone. We dread change.

The depth and flavor of fear varies for each individual, although there are common elements at play. If we’re willing to look, what is our actual felt experience of rejection? What are we really afraid of?

On a cognitive level, we may be afraid that rejection confirms our worst fear—perhaps that we’re unlovable, or that we’re destined to be alone, or that we have little worth or value. When these fear-based thoughts keep spinning in our mind, we may become agitated, anxious, or depressed. Cognitively-based therapies can help us identify our catastrophic thoughts, question them, and replace them with more healthy, realistic thinking. For example, if a relationship fails, this doesn’t mean that we are a failure.

From an experiential or existential viewpoint (such as Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing), working with our fear of rejection or actual rejection involves opening to our felt experience. If we can have a more friendly, accepting relationship with the feelings that arise within us as a result of being rejected, then we can heal more readily and move on with our lives.

A big part of our fear of rejection may be our fear of experiencing hurt and pain. Our aversion to unpleasant experiences prompts behaviors that don’t serve us. We withdraw from people rather than risk reaching out. We hold back from expressing our authentic feelings. We abandon others before they have a chance to reject us.

Being human, we long to be accepted and wanted. It hurts to be rejected and to experience loss. If our worst fear materializes—if our catastrophic fantasy becomes a reality and we’re rejected—our organism has a way of healing if we can trust our natural healing process. It’s called grieving. Life has a way of humbling us and reminding us that we’re part of the human condition.

If we can notice our self-criticisms and tendency to sink into the shame of being a failure and accept our pain just as it is, we move toward healing. Our suffering is intensified when not only do we feel hurt, but we think something’s wrong with us for feeling it.

If we risk opening our heart to someone who rejects us, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. We can allow ourselves to feel sorrow, loss, fear, loneliness, anger, or whatever feelings arise that are part of our grieving. Just as we grieve and gradually heal when someone close to us dies (often with the support of friends), we can heal when faced with rejection. We can also learn from our experience, which allows us to move forward in a more empowered way.

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How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory Reply

Are you a mover, a perceiver, a stimulator, or an adapter? Modes of thinking can be understood in terms of how the top and bottom—rather than right and left—parts of the brain interact.

By Stephen M. Kosslyn & G. Wayne Miller, The Atlantic

It is possible to examine any object—including a brain—at different levels. Take the example of a building. If we want to know whether the house will have enough space for a family of five, we want to focus on the architectural level; if we want to know how easily it could catch fire, we want to focus on the materials level; and if we want to engineer a product for a brick manufacturer, we focus on molecular structure.

Similarly, if we want to know how the brain gives rise to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we want to focus on the bigger picture of how its structure allows it to store and process information—the architecture, as it were. To understand the brain at this level, we don’t have to know everything about the individual connections among brain cells or about any other biochemical process. We use a rela­tively high level of analysis, akin to architecture in buildings, to characterize relatively large parts of the brain.

To explain the Theory of Cognitive Modes, which specifies general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people, we need to provide you with a lot of information. We want you to understand where this theory came from—that we didn’t just pull it out of a hat or make it up out of whole cloth. But there’s no need to lose the forest for the trees: there are only three key points that you will really need to keep in mind.

First, the top parts and the bottom parts of the brain have differ­ent functions. The top brain formulates and executes plans (which often involve deciding where to move objects or how to move the body in space), whereas the bottom brain classifies and interprets incoming information about the world. The two halves always work together; most important, the top brain uses information from the bottom brain to formulate its plans (and to reformulate them, as they unfold over time).

Second, according to the theory, people vary in the degree that they tend to rely on each of the two brain systems for functions that are optional (i.e., not dictated by the immediate situation): Some people tend to rely heavily on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but not the top, some rely heavily on the top but not the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.

Third, these four scenarios define four basic cognitive modes— general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people. According to the Theory of Cognitive Modes, each of us has a particular dominant cognitive mode, which affects how we respond to situations we encounter and how we relate to others. The possible modes are: Mover Mode, Perceiver Mode, Stimulator Mode, and Adaptor Mode.

Systems, Not Dichotomies

We use what researchers have learned to present a new theory of brain function that hinges on how the top and bottom parts of the brain interact. But we do not try to characterize the top and bottom parts of the brain in terms of a simple dichotomy or set of dichotomies, which was exactly what was done with the existing and well-known division of the brain into two halves: namely the left versus the right, the dominant pop-culture brain story of the last few decades. You have probably heard of this theory, in which the left and right halves of the brain are characterized, respectively, as logical versus intuitive, verbal versus perceptual, analytic versus synthetic, and so forth. The trouble is that none of these sweeping generalizations has stood up to careful scientific scrutiny. The dif­ferences between the left and right sides of the brain are nuanced, and simple, sweeping dichotomies do not in fact explain how the two sides function.

Feature continues here:  How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory