Rejection is a harsh feeling that has followed me around for as long as I could think or feel. Trying to come to terms with it is an immense undertaking which raises immense questions – is it all in my head? Am I my own worst enemy? Is there some basis in truth? Is it always going to be like this?
Looking at the first three questions, it is clear they are all linked. In fact, number one and number three are more or less the same. This suggests that subconsciously, I am placing emphasis on blaming myself, a very anxious manoeuvre, but perhaps a natural one given the feelings of rejection.
Internalizing and self-blame are the product of guilt – that most terrible and useless of emotions. I find guilt to be very prevalent in myself, a guilt for even existing or occupying space. It is common in others who have experienced abuse. Guilt is a weapon in the abuser’s armoury, it sows confusion, prevents escape, plays your good nature against you. My own feelings of rejection must be linked to this self-blame and guilt, itself instilled to satisfy an abuser’s power all those years ago.
However, as we move to identify the source of my feelings of rejection, we see that is not all ‘in my head’. Its not my fault for being the target of abuse. There is a basis in reality and an obvious historical precedent to the guilt and therefore for the self-directed anxiety.
I have felt rejected in the fundamental first relationships I formed. I was unable to ‘love thy abuser’ and this has instilled feelings of failure. It is of course all my fault, how could it be the abuser’s! All of the responsibility is on my shoulders, I have the duty to forgive the abuser’s faults and break through their shell to bestow upon them the love they deserve! Never mind that with every giving my love was rejected, my being was never respected, and mistreatment followed no matter what I did. No way out of rejection, a sense of hopelessness, all my fault, all because of my own shortcomings, guilt, guilt, guilt.
This is my fundamental experience, an alienation and lack of belonging in the fundamental relationship. All other relationships are subconsciously tainted – what if the same dynamic plays out? Indeed, it has played out a few times in my life.
This is clearly not ‘all in my head’. I am not ‘my own worst enemy’, nor am I ‘my own best friend’. Both of those things require an immense amount of energy, they are draining eternal pits.
Is it always going to be like this?
If depression could take the form of a sentient being, this is one of the first questions it would ask. It would respond that yes, this is all that it can be and that these feelings should be accepted as a fundamental aspect of reality. They are nature itself – it would then seek out evidence to fit into its world view. The ongoing depression is a massive sustainer of my feelings of rejection and alienation. How it is all interlinked is dazzlingly disturbing – before a single step has been taken toward progress, I feel I am ten years of processing behind.
Feedback loops abound here as depression seeks to justify itself, proving with empirical evidence that rejection is the way to feel!
But this article isn’t some New Age bullshit or a one-two-three self-help guide to realizing your true inner potential. The universe does not give you back what you give and it isn’t all in the individual. Whilst I recognise my responsibility to challenge my thinking and resolve life-long repressed feelings through therapy, there is another entire aspect to these feelings of rejection which are not my responsibility. And this white middle class normality.
It is not my responsibility that I am perceived as a person of colour and more subtly from a working-class (read: lower-class) background. It is up to the racializing and classist minds of the others to do their subconsciousness homework so that their prejudice doesn’t make others feel like shit. If groups or individuals do not at least recognise the normality of white middle-classness, loud alarm bells sound inside me and naturally lead me to reject them before they reject me. This is where it is justified. Prejudice is another of those relationships where you cannot move forward – what can I do to be white enough or middle class enough?
Inspite of my admiration for the great middle class champions of English culture, my wish to give and belong, I will never be seen as normal. Just as the abused can never be good enough for the abuser until there is a fundamental change in his warped soul, so the othered cannot be accepted by the normalized until the uncomfortable edifice of social and racial hierarchy is recognised and brought down.
The empirical evidence seeking for this second category of rejection can fall into bias. You could actively seek out instances of prejudice and ignore exceptions. But in my life at least, I have not had to look far! All white households, all white groups, all white partners. It is perfectly normal to subconsciously seek another like you when you are in the minority, but is it also the same for the majority? I cannot answer that, because I have never been in a position where I am in that majority.
Another massive form of rejection I have felt in my life has been romantic rejection. But this is another beast entirely and perhaps the worst of them all. It needs its own article to prevent it being cliched rubbish and I must tread carefully through that minefield of a topic.