Did you know that emotional pain, such as romantic rejection, lights up the same parts of the brain associated with psychical injury (or something like that). So that when we’ve been rejected we feel pain like in a bodily way.
When I first heard this it made absolute sense to me. It’s hard to describe the pain of being dumped. If you stub a toe, it may hurt a lot, but you are unlikely feel as thought the world has ended. Indeed, some people take it upon themselves to end their lives under such conditions. Dramatic as that is, it isn’t at all uncommon.
When you loose, when I have lost, someone that I loved it feels like it will never pass. I felt isolated, and that nobody else could possibly understand the pain I am in. And I’m someone who talks with other people a lot about my emotional life. How hard it must be if you haven’t really connected with other people on that level, and feel utterly stranded in the pain of loss.
I’ve been coping with, not the pain of loosing a partner, but the pain of being ignored by people that I personally wouldn’t ignore myself. Even so, they have taken it upon themselves to shut me out, as though I am someone best avoided. I find this very hard, because mainly, expect in very extreme circumstances, it isn’t a tactic I’m inclined to practice.
I’ve got three cases of being ignored buzzing about in my brain, lighting up my pain centres. It’s fogging up my thinking so I feel stranded in the unsayable, unable to communicate with people who aren’t ignoring me. When reporting the facts about what has gone down, e.g. “L has ignored my important Messenger text”, I don’t feel that I can explain the gravity of the situation. Nobody can quite understand how much this hurts, and in what way. I feel like I have been stabbed in the brain, and how do you describe how that feels? It’s like language fails. This adds frustration to pain.
“You feel things very acutely, don’t you?” a psychotherapist once said to me. That is certainly true. “Yes,” I replied. “But doesn’t everyone?”
“Well,” he said, ignoring my minimising of the situation. “You do.”
I’m carrying this pain about with me at the moment — L ignoring me. L was a close friend of my mother, quite a ‘well-to-do’ type. A Buddhist, a psychotherapist, married with a kid, a nice woman. I always liked L. At the same time I always had the feeling L took me with a pinch of salt. She didn’t quite trust me.
When my mother died, leaving no will, her house went to her husband; someone she had been in the process of divorcing before she got ill. I thought about challenging this — my mother told me she wanted me to have the cottage. Not only that, my grandmother left her an enormous sum of money on the condition everything would go my way when my mothers time came.
I was considering challenging the will with a solicitor who had agreed to take it on in a ‘No Win No Fee” arrangement; I was planning on getting the cottage sold and divided up three ways: my mums ex, my step brother and me. When L got wind of this, she let me know — in no uncertain terms — that she would be challenging this course of action, as fast and as far as she could. She said, “Well, you mother may have said that to you, but she said different things to different people and she wrote down on a piece of paper, when she was dying, that she wanted your step brother to have the cottage.” She was also pretty aggressive in relaying this information, which shocked me.
Other things have happened to, quite apart from the underlying hostility I have always sensed emanating from her to me. An outcome that can really only have had my mother as source. They were very close. It made me realise my mother did not have good things to say about me when I wasn’t around. Considering the way she treated me, I ought to have guessed that she had not much that was good to say about me behind my back, but it was something I always denied to myself.
If I had had any sense I might have divorced myself from her years before her death, but I couldn’t do it. Not only because my AA sponsors were always telling me I had to try and to make amends, but also because she was my mother. The attachment ran very deep, and like I say, I don’t easily turn my back on people.
A while back I had to get away from my step brother — a year and a half ago. I also had to stop talking to him. His attitude to me was, intermittently, becoming increasingly hostile, aggressive and abusive. In the end the negativity from my mother clan was effecting me with such force I completely lost my mind and tried to kill myself. Also, I am Bipolar and wasn’t taking my meds. This didn’t help. So anyway, the upshot of all this was I stopped talking to my step brother; who I happened to also love a great deal, but I had no choice. I was too ill to cope with the situation.
After taking this action (stopping communications with my brother) I happened to see L in a cafe in town. I couldn’t be sure she had seen me, but I had looked over at her expecting an acknowledgment, at least. But she had such a stony look on her face I realised, all the time wondering if I had actually imagined it, that she really hated my guts. But like I said, it wasn’t the first time I had felt this. But as is my usual tendency at such times, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.
When recently I heard new that my step brothers mental health had deteriorated to a quite abysmal degree, and I couldn’t get hold of him, I sent L the Messenger text I mentioned earlier. I really was in two minds about this course of action, but I didn’t really know who else to contact. My mother’s ex had told me the bad news, and that my brother had disappeared. The only person I could think of who might know something was L. She had become something of a surrogate mother since my mother passed. Perhaps she would let me know if my brother was at least alive.
It really hurts to be ignored in such dire circumstances. She really must hate me. It’s really not a nice feeling at all. It hurts in a physical way. Like being stabbed in the brain. But she obviously believes it’s what I deserve.
This too shall pass.
I have to do what Philipa Perry advised — think of one example of something positive from my experience. I recently asked her on Twitter how to deal with rejection. That was her advice. She said that we naturally focus on the negative as it helps us feel safe.
Like I said, this isn’t the only rejection wound I’m nursing at the moment. I saw my ex on the street earlier today and I’m fairly sure he pretended not to see me so as to avoid having to interact with me. Then there was the guy in the local bakery that didn’t bother to reply after I sent in my CV for a job I was interested in. I had actually met this man and talked with him about sending in my CV and was thoroughly gutted when he didn’t even bother to acknowledge the work I had put into applying for a job in his cafe. A cafe that is very popular and cool in these parts.
The three positives I choose are:
1. I have a lovely friend who recently sent me an email saying that our friendship means a lot to him.
2. I am enjoying life quite a bit at the moment. Not because of any achievement or relationship, but because I can occupy myself with activities I find satisfying: Reading the Guardian, watching TV, reading books, writing my blog and listening to podcasts.
3. I have managed to save a good chunk of cash for the first time in my adult life.
4. I’m also developing a spiritual practice of prayer and meditation, service, gratitude, and taking inventory — this blog is my inventory.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as Nietzsche says.