Human beings, like most animals, live in groups. We have developed words to describe this. A shoal of fish, a flock of birds, a pride of lions, a herd of cows, a troop of apes and so on. Groups of people are called things like race, ethnicity, nationality, society, community, and family. We will even name our groups to give them an even more precise identity black, white, gay, straight, French, British, American. Within such groups there may be tribes and clans, regions and accents. When we get down to the level of the family we become the Smiths and the Jones, Steins and Khans. And the groups get even smaller as ‘our’ branch of the family has an identity that separates it from all others, “Oh you’re one the Hereford Smiths are you?”

What all these groupings tell us is that we belong, or that we do not.

As soon as the whole of humanity is divided into groups we introduce the concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’ of ‘in’ and ‘out’ which means that either you belong or you do not.

Any group has a set of group norms, that is, the set of values or behaviours that are needed to be recognised as a member of the group. To belong to a union, religion, society, an order etc, requires that we all believe the same things and that we act in ways according to these beliefs. When these norms, or rules, are transgressed the individual may well be expelled from the group. We have developed words that describe individuals being thrown out of the group, expelled from school, defrocked by the church, court martialed by the army, disbarred, or dismembered.

In smaller social groups we may ‘turn our back’ on disgraced members. Someone may be ‘sent to Coventry’ meaning that we do not talk to them or someone may be separated and used by the group to be responsible for all the groups ills, we call this person the ‘scapegoat’.

Individual belonging

I guess the smallest group is a couple. One person says “I love you” the other person says “I love you too” and we have become ‘an item’, we are one. Whether or not this is formalised into a marriage the bonding has happened. Often we wear rings to signify that we are now a couple, in a relationship. Even on social media we will acknowledge our relationship status. The concept of this bonding, for most people in most groups is that this is now an exclusive partnership that has its own rules of fidelity and sharing.

Having worked with many couples over the years it is clear that these rules vary enormously, are never universal, so that all couples are different and have their own rules of engagement. Included in these smaller groupings I think we should include friendship that may be with one other person or with a tight intimate groups. Often in British society these would be termed ‘your mates’.

Breaking the norms

Once established the norms of the group or relationship have been established they can be transgressed or broken. When this happens the deal is broken, the belonging ceases to be, the relationship is over. This gives rise to concepts such as infidelity, being jilted or cheated on, stabbed in the back, cuckolded, thrown over, dumped, estrangement, divorced and separation.

In rejection you no longer belong

All groups offer some form of security, some form of safety, ‘there’s safety in numbers’. As one of ‘us’ the group offers us protection from ‘them’. It will come to our aid when we are threatened. Outside of this protection we are alone, isolated and vulnerable.

Broken elastic, hurt and anger

In my book “what Colour is your Knicker Elastic’ I describe the energy that connects us in relationships and an elastic bond. This elastic has energy so that if we move apart it pulls us back together. However if it is stretched to breaking point the snapping releases a huge amount of energy. Depending on the relationship and the nature of the ending this energy will be expressed as anger, hurt, loss, bereavement and so on.

The hurt of rejection

In most cases the feeling of rejection from a group, job, relationship, or whatever, is felt in terms of value ‘we were not good enough’. The rejection feels like a devaluation of who we are or who we felt our self to be. If we are being rejected in favour of another person it can lead to a confidence crisis. I am too fat or too thin, I am not sexy enough, I am boring, pathetic, ugly. No one will ever want me, I will be alone forever, I am a waste of space, who would ever want me, I might as well be dead.

Alternatively it might be, all men/women/families are all bastards I never want anything to do with any of them ever again, you can all sod off, I am done with the lot of you.

Dealing with rejection

When we feel devalued by rejection, beyond the normal feelings of adjustment that are loss and bereavement, it is because ‘we’ do not value our self enough. The feeling of rejection happens within us, it is not done to us we do it to our self. If you reject me, if you don’t want to be my friend, use me professionally or be my partner my thoughts may go one of three ways. The first is that I descend into a pit of despair and beat myself up for being such a waste of space. The second would be that I in turn reject you as being some sort of moron who doesn’t deserve me anyway and I am better off without you. Thirdly I stop and consider what has happened here, try to understand the why, and learn and grow from the experience.

We are not in the least affected by events.

We are affected by our response to those events

5000 years ago the Greek philospher Epicticus identied that it is us who are responsible for how we think, feel and act. Our world is full of choices. Either we have problems of opportunities.

In my world, I experience it to be full of ‘learning points’ where I have the choice to make decisions. In general one way will lead to a positive outcome and one to a negative out come. However, even a negative outcome is also a learning point and it will teach me and help me make decisions that serve me better in the future.


As a last point, if you feel rejected and that feels bad, the chances are that you have some sort of confidence crisis. This is therapy time. Go and work it through with an experienced listener. I would say that you can only feel rejected if you, in someway, reject yourself, that you devalue, or undervalue yourself.

To the positive mind when one door closes another door opens, to have a beginning there needs to be an ending.

Give yourself value, be happy and confident.

Take care,
Sean x