Why is friend rejection painful?
I have a terrific, lovely friend, Gabby. She’s curious, wholesome, generous, loving. And, she had a really, really bizarre and funky relationship with a business gal pal. This gal pal was often mean to Gabby. To Gabby it felt like friend rejection, she was never good enough, this gal pal put her down, tells her what to do or not to do, then ignores her, ugh.
Now, I’m not your usual friend. I shoot from the hip with compassion – kind of like Judge Judy at a meditation retreat – when my friends have personal or professional issues. I don’t candy coat the issue. I’m not sentimental (although I sometimes go awwww at cat videos). I give measured, and thoughtful (my words) responses (my husband thinks I should’ve been a lawyer) to my friends. Bottom line, I love solving real friend problems, issues, puzzles, and know that this kind of friend rejection sucks.
However, Gabby’s particular friend issue was baffling to me. I was left scratching my head… until yesterday.
For years, Gabby spent 60% of our conversations talking about her negative gal pal. I’d acknowledge and empathized with Gabby’s pain. Then I asked Gabby, what’s keeping you in this friendship? What are you getting out of this friend rejection? Bringing the focus on Gabby and her actions. Because let’s face it, we can’t change anyone but ourselves, right? I gave her some coaching techniques like what would she tell her daughter in a similar situation. Maybe that would help see this friend rejection from a different angle.
After our first couple of chats, Gabby thanked me and called Don, our mutual buddy. Don would say, “How terrible for you,” “You’re kidding, she said that? – wow! She’s so mean to you,” “poor you, she’s a nightmare.” etc. Terrible her, her, her… poor you, you, you.
Friend Rejection Solutions
Then, Gabby stopped calling me. And guess what… she kept calling Don. Over and over. Then I had my first A-ha: scientists have discovered that the brain treats rejection as physical pain.
“The human brain treats rejection in a similar way to the way it process physical pain, new research has suggested.“ Heather Saul, (The Independent, October 16, 2013)
That’s what left me scratching my head. If you have a physical pain your brain tells you to take an aspirin, right? An ongoing pain, you visit a doctor. You don’t have a friend that keeps poking where it hurts most. So why did Gabby keep this friend rejection pain alive by continually talking about her gal pal with Don? Why didn’t her brain warn her away from this pain, rather than compelling her to keep probing this friend rejection?
My second A-ha came yesterday when I read “Desperately Seeking Validation,” by Peter Michaelson (August 14, 2012). When I read this article, I realized this’ why Gabby sought out Don, rather than seeking help. She wanted validation for her pain and misery – by turning her pain into suffering.
“Watch out for people who lean on you to validate their pain and misery. They may be using you to justify their unconscious decision to hold on to their brand of suffering.”
Peter M’s talks about why people seek out others who validate their pain, which turns into suffering (Our unconscious it 90% of our brain, by the way; we only use about 10% of brain consciously.). If you’ve got someone in your life (including you) like this, read the article. It’ll help you lot, as it did me. Work on guiding your friend to understand that by revisiting her pain over and over, it won’t go away, in fact it’ll get worse. And now I’ve finally got a better understanding of this situation too.
Remember… a great friend starts with you!!
Image courtesy: CelinaTH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
© Glenda Shaw_Superfriendgroups.com 2014
Please note: I hide specific and identifiable details in my friend stories as these stories are examples of behavior and not meant to hurt anyone. These stories are based on my opinion and perspective, except when the people written about are in the public domain. Any advice in this blog is from my insights, research and opinion only, and must not be considered as legal or medical advice.