There is Only Rejection

There is Only Rejection

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I have spent my life surrounded by “all or nothing” people.  And unfortunately, it made me an “all of nothing” person.  I have spent years undoing the belief systems that come from a childhood like mine, but sometimes it feels endless (or maybe that’s my “all or nothing thinking again).  I have had to unravel beliefs like:

“Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

“Nobody will ever love me.”

“Everybody who is nice to me just wants something.”

And believe me, I am far from finished with the rewiring process.  These beliefs still come up, but I am much more aware of them now.  I know where they come from.  I have seen the evidence.  And I know how to question them now.  I know they aren’t as true as I once thought.

As I deal with my latest inner part, the rebel runner, I am facing another aspect of the damage done by the people in my life.  And this wasn’t the occasional experience by a random person.  This was a consistent message from countless people which permeated my entire childhood.  And that message was:

“If I make one mistake, I will be rejected, ridiculed, bullied and abandoned (in that order).”

These mistakes did not follow the traditional definition of mistakes (which would still make these situations problematic).  These mistakes were about failing to be the person they wanted me to be, failing to keep my trauma hidden and failing to be the image of perfection I thought I had to be.  The message I received was that being myself (in that traumatized and dissociated state) would ALWAYS lead to rejection.  And what did I learn from these experiences?  I learned a few key defenses.

  1. Don’t let them in. The guard needs to be up.  The controller needs to be in charge.  The mask needs to be worn at all times.  Don’t let anyone get to know me too well.  When they figure out who I am, what I am about and what drives me, they won’t like it.  And when they don’t like something about me, they will get ruthless.  So it is my job to avoid that experience at all costs.
  2. Don’t spend too much time with them. The more time I spend with people, the more likely they will figure out something about the real me.  And they will never like it.  They will always hate the real me.  Everyone always has.  So I should keep my distance with others.  I should see them in little bits.  I shouldn’t go on long trips with anyone.  I have to try to space out interactions as much as possible.  I need to come up with as many excuses as possible to avoid them if they start to get too clingy.
  3. Don’t stick around. When the inevitable happens and they figure me out, it is time to run.  I don’t want them to have the opportunity to attack, to bully, to ridicule and eventually, abandon me.  It is best for me to get out before all that happens.  I don’t care what I have to do.  Quit a job or a volunteer position, change my number, or move to another country: all of that will work.  But the best solution is to cut and run.

As I work with my inner rebel runner to consider life from a different perspective, I have received evidence from her about life.  And it breaks my heart to see the number of family members and “friends” who were brutal over dissociative moments which were only natural based on my trauma.  I want to tell her it won’t always be like that.  I want her to hear me when I say I will help her and we will find people who will be more unconditional in their love.  I have become good at spotting conditional love as my awareness grows.  And I won’t allow any of my inner parts to be subjected to cruelty any longer.

But I can hear her hesitation.  There are so many bad experiences.  And as a child, it was impossible to escape these people in most circumstances.  And honestly, these beliefs (and actions) have served her well.  They have kept her safe from additional traumatic experiences.  They came at a cost of isolation, but in her mind, that has been worth it.  And I can understand where she’s coming from.

Unfortunately, that will only lead to a tortured existence.  Human beings were not put on this planet to be isolated.  We are here to connect.  And while it is very clear that all people are not safe to connect with, it is also clear that I don’t want to spend life alone.  So I must give it a try.  I must work to build awareness of my susceptibility to dangerous relationships, so I can stop them in their tracks.  And I must build awareness of my tendency to build walls and run, so I can stop myself in my tracks.  And after I practice this for a while, I will find a different truth because I will find different people.  And I will leave the “all or nothing” world behind me.

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17 Comments

  1. I needed this so much! I’ve always been a “runner” constantly posed with “one foot out the door”. I actually am to a point in my current relationship where I am fighting my inner parts who wanna go and the other who wants to stay. Timely message. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your comment. Having awareness of this will make such a difference Katie!

      Reply
  2. Great post, thank you Elisabeth.

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  3. Totally resonates. I admire your heartfelt honesty and ability to put it into words!

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  4. This resonates with me on such a deep level. Just terminated a relationship, but after him consistently lying to me for over a year & maligning me, I had to cut & run. Just wondering when & how I’ll ever get it “right”.

    Reply
    • I have wondered this so many times myself. But each time, I learn a bit faster. I become aware quicker. And I handle relationship issues better. I am heading in the right direction. I am sure you are too.

      Reply
  5. So true! My fears are that if I make someone angry or fail to make them happy, they will rape, kill, or banish me forever. I appreciate hearing how you work with your inner parts. I’m not there yet.

    Reply
    • I understand those fears. I really do. Love to you Wendy.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for this post Elisabeth. My rebel runner used to be my strongest and most ruthless part. She’s much tamer now. I have had similar “all or nothing” issues in relationships all my life. While I’ve been able to overcome that mentality in romantic relationships, it took me a very very long time. I’m still working on the friends part, having grown away from the friends who only offered friendship on conditional terms. The friends that have remained are the true blues – they have seen me at my worst and best and were there regardless. For so long I was told by my mother that friends only wanted things from me and didn’t actually like me for who I was, no one could possibly want to be friends with me. I’m getting better everyday at understanding that’s not true and knowing that I will find kindred spirits. My 2 childhood abusers were females so I find I struggle with those relationships the most.

    Reply
    • I am so glad you have made so much progress with this Trena! And it sounds like you have the right friends now. I had both female and male abusers so it has hit me from both sides unfortunately. Love to you.

      Reply
  7. I am married to a man who behaves exactly like this. It’s so so hard, out marriage is suffering, our children are suffering. He won’t get help. 🙁

    Reply
    • I am so sorry to hear this. I wish he would get help, but the repressed trauma is so scary, most people run from it.

      Reply
  8. This is really interesting. I have been struggling for the last few days because a colleague is asking me lots of questions about how I am, what I’ve been getting up to, what my plans are for my day off etc. Whilst their interest could on one hand be considered very thoughtful, I have an inner part on ‘high alert’ as to why they are showing so much interest. Why are they doing this? Is this a precursor to bad news coming? Do they see making me open up as a personal achievement? Are they trying to make me feel more interesting than I consider I am? Do I appear in need of cheering? So I have to ask myself why can’t I just accept that they might just be being kind?

    Reply
    • …or is it all just deception and tricks?

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      • This makes so much sense Olive. I get it. Whenever my parents expressed interest in me, it was to manipulate me in some way. And this is a reaction I often have. It is hard to believe we might just be worthy of being known to another person.

        Reply

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