thinking they have found the "great catch" only to realize the catch
was not what they expected, your patients may feel that protecting themselves
from feeling rejected becomes a primary mission in their lives, because they will
not risk experiencing that kind of hurt again. They avoid asking for what they
want or need; sharing warm, loving feelings; becoming involved romantically with
someone. They will expend great amounts of energy protecting themselves from the
possibility of pain. In order to do this they muster every coping skill they can,
often building armor or erecting walls around themselves and their feelings to
help them survive emotionally when the environment around them does not feel safe.
patients may say:
Not only do we protect ourselves by presuming relationship
rejection is out there waiting to happen, but sometimes by magnifying the drama
of it as well. Perhaps if we worry about it we wont be caught off guard.
Maybe if we expect the worst again, whatever happens wont seem so bad. Its
as if we were rehearsing what to do in a difficult predicament.
books call this catastrophizing, but I like the term one of my clients uses -
awfulizing. By looking at all the awful things that can happen again in a realtionship
and being prepared to avoid them, they try to make themselves feel safer. This
behavior can become automatic, without conscious awareness. But you can see how
much energy it takes to be always on the lookout for the worst, always prepared,
not to mention the worry and anxiety that goes along with it.
emotional pain to accompany love is a common experience for many patients. One
woman summed it up, We were taught our husbands were supposed to love us
and take care of us. But mine didnt. In fact, he was nasty and unpredictable,
so when he told me No one will ever love you like I do, I got so confused.
What can I expect from anyone else?
who have been through a controlling relationship may believe, Those who
love me also hurt me. This contradictory message caused immense confusion
during the controlling relationship and leads to greater anxiety in relationships
for them now. So, since the controlling relationship, theyve been wary,
on guard, just waiting for it to happen again. One man told me I cant
give up the hurt. The hurt substitutes for love - it fills up the space. There
always seems to be room for more hurt, but I dont seem to be able to let
happen all the time, especially when people have some sort of preconception. If
people who have been in controlling relationships expect new partners to be hurtful,
they might miss a loving, caring message. Recently I scooped up my cat, Rufus,
into my arms while I was talking to a friend. I commented on how hes so
standoffish, and tends to push me away when I hold him and that hes been
that way for fourteen years. My friend said, Just look at your cat. Hes
absolutely melted into your arms. He doesnt look at all standoffish to me.
And sure enough, Rufus was relaxed and content and purring. I looked down at the
cat in my arms and realized I was holding on to history. How long have I been
assuming hes unfriendly? When had he changed? How had I missed that? My
perception was truly lagging behind reality.
when patients expect that other people will disappoint them, others are all too
willing to oblige. Its as if patients were equipped with radar that seeks
out people who will let them down, and these people are not hard to find.
the relationship, survivors of controlling relationships tend to overlook positive
input from possible new romantic interests, because it does not conform to their
expectations of rejection. They want acceptance and nurturing, but it is so frightening
to risk the unknown that they often will find ways to avoid this risk - especially
if they believe the pain of their past relationship might be lurking out there
Adapted from: Don’t Take it Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection, Elayne Savage, Ph.D., iUniverse BackInPrint.com. For more information go to http://QueenofRejection.com
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bornstein, R. F. (2019). Synergistic dependencies in partner and elder abuse. American Psychologist, 74(6), 713–724.
Figueredo, A. J., Jacobs, W. J., Gladden, P. R., Bianchi, J., Patch, E. A., Kavanagh, P. S., Beck, C. J. A., SotomayorPeterson, M., Jiang, Y., & Li, N. P. (2018). Intimate partner violence, interpersonal aggression, and life history strategy. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 12(1), 1–31.
You, J., Shen, H., Zhang, H., & Shum, Y. K. (2020). Tendency of support seeking and psychological outcomes in a dating relationship: Roles of relationship qualities across cultures. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 11(1), 31–39.
Why do many clients seek to avoid reaching out and building new relationships?
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