Counseling Austin Blog

Anticipatory Rejection

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Anticipatory rejection is a when you are so convinced that you will be rejected (or denied something) that you reject the other person before they have a chance to accept or reject you! It is an example of emotional masochism. By definition, anticipatory rejection occurs before something actually happens, whereas extracting rejection happens after a situation has occurred.

It’s one thing to read negativity into something somebody says when you’re having one of those Murphy’s Law days where everything is going wrong. It’s something altogether different when you show a consistent pattern of rejecting yourself before others can reject you. It’s the pervasive pattern that can become so pronounced that it is a self-defeating habit that must be broken free from in order to find lasting connections with others.

How can Mindfulness-based counseling help?

A mindfulness practice is based on seeing your reality at it’s most simple level; just the facts of your circumstances, without the burden of judgments of good or bad. When applied to counseling, we have a partnership where you are able to examine what is leading to the self-defeating thoughts that result in anticipating rejection before anything has even happened.

Mindfulness-based counseling will help you use mindfulness to first become clear about what your reality actually is, then will help you challenge and change the thoughts and beliefs that are causing you to suffer. Imagine feeling nervous about a job interview, but confidently starting the interview without the assumption that you will perform horribly. Imagine how nice it will be to walk out of that interview feeling excited about the possibilities of a new job that you love, feeling exhilarated about having faced your fears and accepted the challenge!

So, mindfulness-based counseling helps you connect with empowerment and confidence, which are the antidotes to anticipatory rejection.

So why does it happen?

This is a common question with most forms of suffering: Why me? The answer is not always clear at first and is usually not the same for different people. And I should point out that the “why” of the problem is not nearly as important as the “how” of the solution. That being said, it is likely that we will come across various reasons for a pattern of extracting rejection. Some common reasons are:

  • Childhood experiences – As children, we learn how to see ourselves; we also learn what to expect when it comes to how others see us. If we experience repeated rejection, particularly from important adults like our parents, then we learn that we are not worthwhile and that we will be rejected. A particularly potent example of this would be a child that is bounced between many foster homes. As we go along life and we experience rejection, it re-confirms this unfortunate and untrue belief. But it can be changed. Please get in touch with me.
  • Depression – Whether depression is genetic, learned, a result of trauma, or just a symptom of something else (like grief), it creates a very dark lens that we begin to see our lives through. This lens believes the worst at the exclusion of evidence to the contrary.
    • Depressive thoughts that are repeated become habituated thoughts; habituated thoughts that are repeated become beliefs; beliefs that are repeated become knowledge. Believing that people will reject us before we give them a chance to know us can create a situation where we pre-manufacture the rejection that we fear.
  • AnxietyAnticipatory anxiety is related to anticipatory rejection since it is a fear (anxiety) of something that has not happened, including a fear of rejection. We mentioned childhood experiences and how they can shape our expectations of how others will see us. With anticipatory anxiety, the normal “jitters” of asking somebody on a date becomes a full blown panic attack; or in an effort to avoid the panic attack, we never bother asking anybody in the first place.
  • Self-perpetuating cycle – Once you find yourself in a cycle of expecting rejection and therefore creating it before it happens, the pain of this rejection simply fuels the next anticipation of being rejected. With help, the cycle can be broken.
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