I Dream of Rejection, and How to Find Hope out of That
This article is going to be somewhat different from my previous ones if you have been following them. This is both something of a confession and a reflection on a certain aspect dealing with relationships. So bear with me as I tell the tale. Maybe you'll get something out of it.
This morning I had a dream where I was among some friends at a brothel. No, this isn’t a seedy dream implying women are sex objects or any kind of misogynistic tendencies. It’s just the context of the dream. So as we are waiting to be taken by our prospective partners, some of them I surprisingly recognize, I eventually find myself being the only one left, standing there like a clueless moron. After awhile, I turn to the madam and ask where my partner was.
The madam replies that it was up to me to find my partner, to show some confidence and that if I had I would have been with a woman tonight by now. As it was though, I had missed my chance. A myriad of feelings suddenly flooded through me, pursing me even into my waking moments at 7:12 am this morning. I felt a massive surge of disappointment and failure very deep within me: a feeling so powerful I felt like crying like some child. Amidst my failure, there was also isolation, no longer a part of normal society, but a stranger who did not know his way. There was also fear of having to promote myself to the female sex workers there as a viable lover rather than something organic, and the pressure to perform somehow to convince them of my sexual worthiness.
Perhaps most disturbing though was the bitterness. A strong bitterness and anger at having been judged to be unworthy because of my fear and my unwillingness to behave as some caricature of myself, just to get laid. It was a bitterness wanting to lash out at those who had judged me. That was when I woke up…disturbed
Resurrection of the Thorn in My Side
Again I need to emphasize two realities here: I am not for violence against women or any kind of hate towards them. And I do not believe in or condone the attitude that many men, maybe some women too, have that I am somehow owed sex because I am nice guy or did some sort of favor or feat. That is not what this is about.
What this quiet nightmare did do to me was cause me to reflect upon my feelings, and why I emotionally reacted the way that I did and how that can be mirrored in modern relationships. The past few days I had been involved in a string of conversations and situations where it had been said that men would be judged by their performance as lovers and how good the cover looked so to speak, or perhaps as whether they were people worthy of hanging out with. I felt a bit uncomfortable privately at the prospect of being critiqued.
I had always been an outsider, someone who walked to his own beat, even if everyone else around me condemned me for it. While many proclaim this as a mark of self-confidence, its one that comes at the unspoken cost that dealing with others who don’t have to be around that self-confidence. It can cause profound isolation and human beings are by nature social creatures. We want to be affirmed and accepted, at the very least by one person and especially in romance or sex.
So confronting that idea that the world I walked in actively promoted that kind of judgment, coupled with my own issues of affirmation, hurt. It touched a past trauma and the thing with traumas is that if one has never had the experience, then they don’t understand the reaction that happens when it’s reactivated. They write it off as being ‘butt-hurt’.
The feeling of being a total failure at something perceived to be so fundamental being a functioning part of society can leave a person feeling empty of purpose and only filled with despair and self-loathing. That despair can eat a person’s heart and mind from the inside out and it’s a horrible feeling because its unseen and like being trapped in a glass cage that you can see out of but can’t get out. It can make them feel desperate for any kind sensation that distracts them from their weakness: or better yet, empowers them in spite of it.
"He or she wasn’t the problem; it was them all along! Fuck them!"
There are two common defenses that can kick in. The first is anger. The feeling of either feeling rejected, or feeling unable to do anything about one’s own failure creates that kind of intense, internal reaction. Without an outlet, this internalized pressure can build like magma beneath a volcano. It is at this point that that ‘heat’ from that pressurized anger then converts into bitterness.
Bitterness is different from anger in that when anger is expelled, it’s gone, temporary. There is not a lot of lingering affects. Bitterness however persists, even after the expulsion. It spreads from the source of the trauma to anything that bares a resemblance to it as well, seeking to build up the person’s self-worth. Suddenly the rejected individual becomes righteous and justified.
He or she wasn’t the problem; it was them all along! Fuck them!
If we can’t be confident in acceptance and affirmation, we’ll be confident in anger and resentment. That is essentially how it works.
The other defense system that kicks in is a sense of being owed. Popularly this is mostly associated with ‘nice guys’ and sex. I was nice to you when the boyfriend was a douche. I am everything you talk about wanting, so why not get together with me? Why miss out on what you want that is right in front of you? Wasn’t I always there for you?...etc.
Or it can be sense of being owed respect and submission to our authority because of our ‘righteousness’. That because we are being true to ourselves, you automatically then owe us your attention. You have to listen to us and so on. It’s a way of making other people slaves to our views and feelings, even though they never chose to or will.
If you’re getting defensive by the way, bare with me.
Now with the exception of bitterness, these are emotional reactions. There is no mechanism to shut it off or on, any door to lock and board up to keep it from showing itself. It’s as instinctive as heat coming off a flame and no controlling it. So what were my responses to these feelings from that this dream exposed?
Well simply put, reaction does not determine direction.
Don’t Fan the Flames
The last important factor to note is one that we cannot control individually. We can talk about it, hope for it, but we can’t make it happen. That factor is the people who are around those awkward individuals and outsiders to not judge them as failures and reinforce the negative feelings they battle. A lot times this is taken as somehow submitting to that person's sense of ownership and we angrily reject it. Or it is seen as somehow being responsible for that person doing some horrible crime based on those feelings.
Not so, each of us is responsible for our choices. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get extra nudges in one direction or the other along the way. That is not what this is. If you are not attracted to said person, then you’re not attracted to them. That is as equally uncontrollable as the other person’s sense of rejection.
In that acceptance though, we can try and not make them feel like there is no hope or that they are somehow less of a person with nothing to offer someone because you won’t date or fuck them. If they are having trouble or taking time to deal with their feelings, don't hate on them or demand of them to do so faster. You don't know if that person has scars that the rejection touched on, and again emotions are not light switches that one hits on or off. That would be really nice otherwise.
Ideally this act of kindness can help keep them from becoming targets for their anger and others who may also match that profile. Remembering that one person who was kind to you and not belittling you can go a long, long way.
These were my reflections from the dream this morning. They are not preaching violence and hatred. They are not saying we owe someone else something for either being nice or because they are or aren’t meeting a social standard. It’s about finding that balance that acknowledges the emotionally reality of what we feel, with the maturity and hope of how to handle it and move forward. I hope this gives some insight and understanding to you.