Rejection and abandonment

Lexy asked me, the other day, what does it mean for me to feel rejected, abandoned? How does it affect me?

There are, I suppose, four dimensions on which I know how to understand my experience:

  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Cognitive
  4. Behavioral


I feel abandonment in my chest, neck, and shoulders, and, to a lesser extent, in my diaphragm and solar plexus. The leading edge of the sensation is a tautness in my chest that radiates upward, into my shoulders and my neck. My breathing quickens, becomes shallow, unsatisfying. I can’t get a full breath, almost as if I’m suffocating. My shoulders tighten, clench, stiffen. The sensation starts just below my clavicle and wraps up, and around, extending into the back of my neck. And my neck. You know that thing that happens when someone gives you a massage and says, “Ooh, you feel tense“? Well, that’s my neck. My skin is tight, my skin barely contains my muscles, and no amount of stretching, or twisting, or turning, or rubbing or massaging makes a dent. And elsewhere in my body, my adrenaline flows, my heart beats more quickly, tricking me into believing I’m in genuine physical peril.


I feel lonely. I feel sad. I feel angry. Confused. Hungry. Agitated. Anxious. Scared.

I’m lonely because that’s part of what it is to be me, to be lonely. But the sensation heightens when I have a hook of abandonment on which to exercise.

I feel sad because – loss. Because Abandonment and rejection represent loss. Maybe loss of a relationship, or of a hope, or of a fantasy. Maybe loss of something more concrete – a mouth, a pussy, a source of stimulation. But loss leads me to sadness, inexorably.

I feel angry, because, at heart, I’m four. If you take a toy from me, or a hope, or a relationship, or anything, really, I react primally. “Give it back!”

I feel confused because, in my narcissistic world view, it is simply disorienting, disequilibrating, when your desires and mine don’t line up perfectly congruently. It simply does not compute. This is where my empathy sometimes breaks down, when I simply cannot assimilate another’s perspective.

I feel hungry – not for food, but for gratification. My hunger demands satisfaction, demands gratification. Disappoint my hunger, and it starts flexing its muscles, threatening disruption.

Which leads to agitation. To a sense of imminent danger. My impulse is to flee, or freeze, or fight.

And that’s scary. My anxiety arrives, washing over my body like a wave, leaving me with the sensation of wanting to flee, but having to do so in a pool filled with molasses.

And that? That scares the fuck out of me.


Some thoughts accompany this cacophony of emotions. Thoughts such as, “Nobody loves me,” “Nobody wants me,” “I am undesirable,” “I am undeserving,” “I am shameful.


And this, in my behavior, is where the rubber meets the road.

If all is well, all these sensations, feelings, thoughts, lead… nowhere. I don’t act, my behavior doesn’t change, because… well, because nothing, actually, has happened. I don’t need to act. Do I?

If all is well, I meditate. I feel the feelings. I notice them. I label them, I appreciate them, I honor them, but I don’t cling to them, or chase them, or obsess about them. I simply observe.

But sometimes, all is not well. Usually, all is not perfect. My behavior might become somewhat manic. I might act to collect approval, or appreciation, or gratitude, from some other source. Sexual? Perhaps. But not necessarily. Or I might lash out. Yelling at someone, responding intemperately, unsympathetically, unkindly. Or, I might act to numb my sensations, the ones I don’t want to feel. I might do this by reading – typically, news articles, current events, anything that’s short, that requires minimal concentration but provides a jolt of something to me. I might spend an hour, or many hours, simply chasing links. I might do this with porn – seeking images to stimulate me, to distract me. Or I might do it with TV, watching hours of Netflix, or Amazon Prime. Or I might act out sexually. Years ago, acting out sexually typically involved paying for sex. Nowadays, more often it’s more benign, at least in the context of my marriage, and tends to be less destructive, less shame-filled.

In any event, I suppose, the point is that when all is not well, my feelings lead to actions.

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