Dealing With Feeling Rejected and Coping With Fears of Abandonment (BPD)


I've made a lot of progress, but I must admit -- for someone who has such a difficulty engaging much in intimate relationships, including friendships, I can become quite distraught when I sense that someone doesn't like me. It doesn't matter who it is, and it doesn't even matter whether I even like the person in question. I experience distress when I think someone doesn't like me.

It used to be intolerable. I would go to great lengths to obtain the approval, acceptance, or kindness of the person I perceived as shunning or rejecting me. I took it very personally and believed, on some level, that someone not liking me meant that my self-worth or value was diminished in some way.

Perhaps it's the issues with identity formation and stability that are common among those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Perhaps it has to do with how many of us had to carefully watch social cues such as a caregiver's facial expressions or posture in order for us to determine if we had met their approval or if they were about to hurt us in some way.

I think I went on to be especially sensitive to social cues and will still often read into the slightest change in social expressions. For example, in one of the support groups I attend, I tend to be very social, make jokes, and generally receive supportive comments from other members.  This past week, I made a couple of comments that people disagreed with. I scanned the room, interpreted others' non-smiling facial expressions as perhaps no longer liking me and thinking I'm a horrible person (Geez - think in black or white terms much?!), and I felt a great deal of distress.

I noticed my face feeling flush, tears coming on, and a desire to ask them how they could all judge me on my comments just today. (But had they?)  I was definitely in Emotion Mind. I'm glad I resisted the urge to speak out about it or to leave. I used the Emotion Regulation skill of Opposite to Emotion Action and stayed put.

After the group, I reflected a bit. It actually took me a couple of days to fully realize the facts of my experience.  I was able to see that I so desperately feared that, based on a couple of comments in a group and despite the bond I had made with the other group members over several weeks, they would reject me (fear of abandonment).  I also thought that just a couple of comments had instantly taken the group from "adoring" me to disliking me (black or white/all or nothing/polarized thinking).  There was cause for my feelings of distress, and staying in the room helped me to realize that nothing that happened in that room that day was directly responsible for my distress. I was reacting to old wounds.

Not everyone will like us.  I know of some people who outright don't like me, and while it's difficult for me to fully accept this, I do the best I can. I remind myself that people have different personalities, and I don't particularly "like" certain people either. It doesn't take away from their value or worth as a person, nor mine. I think that the sooner we accept these things, the less we'll suffer.

Can you relate at all to any of this?

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

10 comments:

  1. This is probably one of the things I struggle with most. I also have an imaginary abandonment fear, where I will be struck with anxiety and somewhere in my brain it connects it with to the thought of someone I care for either not liking me anymore or realizing 'I'm too much'. It's hard sometimes realizing that the pattern of thinking I've used as a survival mechanism all these years doesn't match up to a lot of other peoples'. And that there's no longer any danger; self esteem building is a continuous process.

    It's great you can reflect and gain perspective on social situations, and give yourself the respect you deserve.

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    1. Thanks so much for you insightful comment Becky. I think many of us can also relate to the imaginary fear of abandonment as well. It's as if we are hyper vigilant to any sign of possible abandonment -- even when it's not really there.

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  2. I can *totally* relate to this post.
    You've even got me thinking about similar things I have done, such as saying something to a friend and them disagreeing, I would instantly change my mind to try and get their approval over my thoughts and make sure they didn't dislike me because of my opinions, but then noticing that they didn't like the fact that I changed my mind to agree with them made my fears that they didn't like me even worse.
    I am now trying to accept my own opinions (although I sometimes don't even know what they are with my forever changing identity) as my own opinions that I will not change to seek out acceptance - but this is something I still have to work on
    Thanks for this post Debbie ♥

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    1. Hi Dear Naomi -- thank you for sharing! ♥ I've done the same thing too - shifting my stance in order to keep what I perceived to be acceptance. Great insight.

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  3. This is one of the many reasons I'm proud of you Debbie - I have a facebook page I'm admin of, and I have to take extended breaks, letting either nothing happen on the page or let other admins deal with it because I can't handle the negativity and thinking people hate me even though they don't know me. I'm afraid to put myself out there, even though I'd love to vlog on my youtube channel that used to have stuff and now has nothing. I even say "I'm sorry" to people who read my first two novels because I knew they weren't fantastic, and even though I am proud of them, I don't want people to read them and say that I'm a terrible writer. It's one of the things that I have not been able to get over in my journey to a more positive me.

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    1. Well, I am proud of you, too! Why? Because you have taken the important steps of noticing and describing your experience. You have awareness, which is essential to healing, in my opinion. I know it's tough, but the more we work on radically accepting that not everyone will like us and that we have something to offer anyway, the easier it gets. HUGE hugs, and I hope you do try to work on those things that will put your light out into the world more, despite your fears and securities. I know firsthand the challenge. ♥

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  4. Hi Debbie,

    This is something I have also experienced great problems with in the past. When I was very young I believed that if I made everyone like me then they would stop hurting me, it caused me extreme distress if I thought I'd upset someone. I'm happy to say that this has improved a lot recently - whilst I think I will always be sensitive to others' opinions of me, they now do not hold quite so much sway. This is due to the work I have been doing on my self-esteem. I understand myself better now, accept myself and genuinely think of myself as a good person. I understand my values and what matters to me in life and this helps me self-validate rather than be dependent on what others think. Someone criticised me on Twitter the other evening and although I thought a lot about what they said, I didn't get upset and my mood did not crash. A few months ago a similar comment had me in tears and very low.

    I'm sure as you continue to work on your skills these things will improve for you also =) Much love, Clare xx

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  5. Beautiful insights, and truly inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing, Clare. Reading about your ability to get stronger in this area is encouraging for me and all who will read your comment. ♥

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  6. I relate to all of it. Little by little I am getting better. DBT skills definitely make the difference. Wil

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  7. I can relate, But since Im just relizing all of these things about myself over the last year I havent figured out how to get better yet??

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