All of us know what it is like to feel rejected. This normally evokes feelings of being on the outer, not being special, not being chosen. Deep down we feel unloved! This is a very normal reaction to the harsh realities of life.

The Rejection Complex, however, has the power to make us crumble! This potent force is triggered deep within us and releases a wave of latent psychic energy on the already rejected ego. James Hollis explains the impact of our past on our present when he explains that our psyche metaphorically asks, “when have I been here before, and what did that experience tell me?”

Generally, we will react to a triggered rejection complex in one of three ways:

  • Identification: Here we not only suffer the experience of the rejection event (real or perceived) but we become “rejection”. Our psyche harnesses all the past experiences of rejection and lumps them together in an overwhelming feeling of rejection. This is usually associated with a deep sense of shame.
  • Power Complex: This reaction to a rejection complex always involves “trying too hard”. In relationships, the activated complex manifests in a partner overcompensating by a wide range of behaviours. These could include doing too much, excessively controlling the other, excessive compliance or double-checking, or obsessive control of the other.
  • Addictive Behaviours: A person suffering from significant or repetitive rejection may find themselves trying to numb the pain. This numbing may involve any one or more of a range of addictive behaviours. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, food etc are often used to ease the short term pain of rejection.

The sad reality is – there is no quick fix to dealing with a rejection complex. These reactions are deep-rooted and often triggered subconsciously. Our role is to push through and not allow these “dragons” to control our lives. The first and essential step is awareness. Parker Palmer states clearly, “awareness precedes being”.

Without awareness, we cannot address the complex. Just as shame cannot be removed from our lives, so rejection cannot be removed from our lives. We need to develop “rejection resilience”.

Resilience involves our ability to push through and live purposefully despite the triggered rejection complex. Easily said, harder to do!

Brene Brown has a mantra that I have found useful and often use in my own life when facing my rejection complex. She simply says to herself,

“Don’t puff up” (power reaction)
“Don’t shrink back” (identification or numbing reaction)

To do this we need to be aware of what is happening (ie my rejection complex is triggered) and take full responsibility for our emotional responses. In this way, we engage in the complex reaction and slowly develop resilience to the debilitating effects of the complex controlling our lives.

I have been asked the question, “why to bother?”
The answer is simple.

Invariably if we want to get through the dips of our lives we will have to confront our demons. For many of us, one of these is the rejection complex. If we don’t, we tend to not push through, tend to implode or explode in the dip. Unattended, the rejection complex causes us to live a smaller life, to walk in shoes that are too small for us.