Do the fears of rejection or engulfment control your life? Do you isolate yourself to protect yourself from the fears of rejection or engulfment? Are you constantly trying to control how people feel about you? Discover how you can heal these fears.
Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast, and today I will be talking about healing the underlying fears of rejection and engulfment that almost everyone experiences in relationships and are often very big issues for people.
“I’m really lonely,” Sabrina told me in one of our phone sessions, “yet I continue to isolate. I don’t reach out to people, and I don’t go places where I could meet people because I’m so afraid of rejection.”
I hear this statement over and over from my clients, both married and single. What causes this fear and why is it so common?
Part of the answer to this question lies in understanding who you think you are – whether you think you are your wounded self or your core self – your true soul essence.
The wounded self in all of us is inadequate, controlling, and insecure. This is our false self, our ego, the part of us we constructed to attempt to have control over getting love, avoiding pain, and feeling safe. This part of us protects with both overt and covert methods of control – anger, blame, compliance, resistance, withdrawal, people-pleasing, and so on. This part of us is seldom endearing!
If you think you are your wounded self, then, of course, you fear rejection. How could you not? You know that this aspect of you may be empty, needy, boring, manipulative – anything but lovable. You may not like this part of yourself, so how can you expect others to?
Imagine, however, that you know who you really are. Imagine you know you are your beautiful essence, your individual expression of the Divine – loving, compassionate, creative, wise, joyful, peaceful, and endowed with your individual gifts and talents. Imagine that you can see yourself through the eyes of love, the eyes of your spiritual guidance.
When you really know that you are your beautiful and perfect soul essence, then you know that you are inherently good, lovable and worthy. You know that you have much love to offer others, and that there is no inherent reason others would not like you. When you are operating from your loving adult knowing who you are, you do not take rejection personally. You know that if others reject you, it is either because they are in their wounded selves and are taking it out on you, or you are operating as your wounded self. You know that if you are expressing yourself as your lovable essence, the only reason someone would reject you is because of his or her own issues of fear and insecurity. The loving adult does not reject – either oneself or others.
The loving adult knows that we do not have any control over how others feel about us.
When we love ourselves and truly value our essence, how others feel about us is not a big issue. When you value yourself, you pick people to be with who also value you. You would choose not to be with someone who consistently rejects you.
As a loving adult, you would reach out to share love with others, and if they were not available for sharing love with you, you would just move on, not taking it personally. For example, if you were at a party as a loving adult, valuing your essence, you would approach someone with openness and warmth. If that person doesn’t response with openness and warmth, you would reassure your inner child that the person’s behavior has nothing to do with you, and you would move on to another person, having received the information that this person is not open.
When you know that you are your essence rather than your wounded self, you know that you have much to offer others. Our essence always has a warm smile, a loving energy, a caring and understanding heart, a listening ear, as well as compassion and empathy to offer others. And, after all, isn’t this what we all seek in our relationships?
You don’t have to be the best at something or the most physically attractive person to be completely lovable. Your lovability is really about your ability to love, which your essence has in abundance. When you know this and choose to operate from your loving adult connected with your beautiful essence, you will no longer fear rejection. Isolating becomes a thing of the past when your intent is to share your love rather than avoid rejection.
However, it’s my experience that all of us grow up with some fears of both rejection and engulfment. I don’t think it’s possible to grow up in our society without these fears, because growing up, we are rejected a lot. We’re rejected in our homes and our schools and with friends. Many of us grew up with parents who are very controlling, so we grew up with a fear of being controlled and dominated and engulfed. And of course, we don’t learn how to deal with this because our parents or teachers or peers were not role modeling for us how to manage these experiences of rejection and engulfment.
When we’re little and we’re rejected, the only way to feel any sense of control is to blame ourselves, which then makes us feel we can do something about being rejected by changing ourselves. If it’s my fault I’m being rejected because there is something wrong with me – I’m not good enough or I’m flawed in some way, then I can do something about it. Maybe if I try to be prefect, to perform right – whatever that is – or look right or act like I’m smart, then I won’t be rejected. Believing that there is something wrong with me, that I’m not good enough, is what creates the deep feeling of shame, which is the basis of our wounded self.
Believing rejection was our fault because we were not good enough was part of our survival mechanism when we’re young, because it took us out of a feeling of helplessness. If we had understood that the people around us were being rejecting because that’s just who they were and that we weren’t bad, or inadequate or flawed, we would have felt so helpless and despairing over having to grow up in a situation like that, that we might have even died. We might have felt that there was no point in being here because we’re being so unloved or abused and we can’t handle it and there’s nothing we can do about it. So what we did regarding making it our fault may have been life-saving.
Once we believed rejection is our fault, then we go about trying to figure out how to do things right. And that’s the beginning of the creation of the ego wounded self, based on our false belief in our inadequacy and resulting core shame. We’ve all developed our wounded self as part of our survival – as a way to try to have control over feeling safe.
As part of trying to control getting love, avoiding pain, and feeling safe, we may have learned to give ourselves up to avoid rejection, which led to the fear of engulfment, the fear of losing ourselves. It might also have led to resisting being controlled, which often leads to procrastination and being stuck in life.
Some of us became caretakers, giving in and going along with what others wanted from us, and some of us just resisted. We shut down. We became rebellious. We learned to do the opposite. We all learned to do these things, in one way or another, as we’re growing up. The problem is we grow up and take all of these protective, controlling behaviors with us into adulthood and into our relationships. And now these protective behaviors not only don’t work to make us feel safe, they also end up hurting us.
It doesn’t work in adult relationships to shame yourself and think everything is your fault or to give in or resist or get angry. These are all the things that we learned to do as we were growing up to manage the heartbreak, the helplessness, and the loneliness of rejection – of not being loved in the way we needed to be loved, and to manage engulfment. When people reject us or try to control us, it feels awful inside. And as I said, little kids cannot handle how bad that feels. Now, as adults, it’s still hurtful when people are uncaring toward us, so we need to learn to compassionately manage those painful feelings. If we don’t learn to manage the heartache and heartbreak and loneliness and helplessness of people being rejecting or people trying to control us, we’re going to keep on doing all the protective controlling things we learned as children. We’re going to keep on shaming and blaming ourselves, getting angry at others, giving ourselves up, withdrawing, or resisting – all the protective controlling behaviors we learned to do as children that now cause both personal and relationship problems.
Now we need develop our loving adult who can not only manage these painful feelings, but who can define our own worth and stop rejecting ourselves with all our self-abandoning behaviors. When you learn to love yourself, you stop fearing others’ rejection because you no longer take it personally, and you stop giving yourself up to try to avoid rejection. But even if you no longer take others’ rejecting and controlling behavior personally, and even if you no longer give yourself up to avoid rejection, you still need to learn to lovingly manage the heart hurt – the loneliness and heartbreak and helplessness when others are unloving, that are underlying the anger, the judgment, the caretaking and the resistance. So how do we learn to manage these deeper feelings, because if we don’t, we’re going to keep on protecting ourselves and keep on reacting to rejection and engulfment in ways that are harmful to us and harmful to any relationship.
We learn to manage them by learning to become a powerful, compassionate, spiritually connected loving adult through our Inner Bonding process.
The six steps of Inner Bonding are incredibly powerful in terms of healing the fears of rejection and engulfment, because you discover who you really are, your true soul self. You see how beautiful, how incredible you are as a unique expression of the Divine that is love. You learn to define your own true worth and deeply value yourself. You learn to compassionately manage and learn from your painful feelings.
As a loving adult, you realize that when people are being rejecting, it’s because of who they are, and that it really has very little to do with you. You start to be able to not take things personally, to not go to the self-judgment and resulting shame that you learned to do, to not go to the anger or the resistance or the caretaking.
Not only do you learn to stop rejecting yourself with all your learned self-abandoning behaviors and no longer take rejection personally, you gradually stop rejecting others. You stop judging others externally by their looks, their race, their gender, their sexual identity, or their performance. You learn to see and value the beautiful essence of each person. You experience your oneness with all living beings and with mother earth.
It’s obvious to me that when you heal your fears of rejection and engulfment, you contribute to the healing of our society on many levels. When you know and deeply experience that you are a spark of the love that is God, then you know that everyone, no matter their race or gender or sexual identity, is someone to value. You stop being threatened by people who are different than you, and you stop trying to control them. You relate to their inherent goodness, and you share your love with all living beings and with our planet, rather than trying to control. Because you have developed a strong loving adult, you are no longer fearful of being controlled, knowing that you would rather lose others than lose yourself.
Robert sought my help because he wanted to get married and have children, yet the relationship of his dreams eluded him because the fear of rejection was controlling his life. Robert was an attractive, creative, brilliant, and successful businessman in his middle 30’s, and he had a great sense of humor. It wasn’t that women weren’t attracted to him. He had no trouble having first dates with interesting, intelligent, and attractive women. But it never went anywhere. Robert was baffled.
When I first started to work with Robert, he was very quiet. It felt like pulling teeth to get him to share anything with me, especially his feelings. He stayed in his head, brilliant in his ability to articulate, but flat and unemotional. His words were carefully planned out and delivered. He seemed to always be tense. It was very hard to connect with him.
“Robert, something seems to be in the way of your spontaneity. Are you aware of how carefully you pick your words?”
“There must be a good reason you do this. Do you know what that is?”
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”
“And what are you afraid will happen if you say the wrong thing or make a fool of yourself?
“I will be rejected.”
“So most of the time in conversation your intention is to avoid rejection?”
“Yes. I’m terrified of rejection. I will do anything to avoid it.”
“Robert, what are you telling yourself it means if someone rejects you?”
“It means that they don’t like me because I’m inadequate and unworthy.”
“So in your mind, everyone, especially attractive women, have the power to define your adequacy and worth?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So when you are with women, your intention is to have control over how they feel about you so they won’t reject you. Yet you seem to get rejected over and over. How do you account for that?”
“I guess I’m just inadequate.”
“Robert, how old do you feel when you are being so careful about what you say? How old were you when you started to do this?”
“I guess when I was about 14, when I started being interested in girls. I wanted to make sure that I made a good impression.”
“What made you believe that they wouldn’t like you if you were just you?”
“Well, for one thing my older sister was always putting me down, telling me I was a dork.”
“So you learned to believe that you were not okay for who you really are – that you had to pretend to be other than you are?”
” Yes, I think that’s correct. I always feel that I have to impress people.”
“Robert, when you then get rejected, aren’t they rejecting your created ego self rather than your real, authentic self? Isn’t it your wounded 14-year-old ego self that is inadequate, rather than your brilliant, creative, funny, successful self? Aren’t you trying to hide your true self because you decided, from many early experiences such as those with your sister, that you are inherently inadequate?”
“Yes, I don’t think that who I really am is good enough. So I always have to be careful about what I say.”
“The few times in our sessions when you have forgotten to watch what you are saying, you are incredible – funny, insightful, interesting, and totally endearing. Your true self is completely lovable and worthy. Yet you spend so much energy trying to hide him, squashing him down in your efforts to avoid rejection. If you were to really get to know and appreciate who you really are, you would stop worrying about rejection! You would know that you are just fine, and that if someone rejects you, it’s more about them than it is about you.”
As Robert did his Inner Bonding work to learn to love his beautiful essence, his true self, his fears of rejection gradually diminished. And, of course, when he was able to be authentic instead of controlling, everything in his life changed, including his relationships with women. After two years of satisfying dating, Robert found the woman of his dreams.
Many people say they want a relationship yet find themselves resisting making themselves available for a relationship. This is Renee’s problem, who said this to me in one of my events: “One thing that’s very evident is that I tell myself I want a relationship and yet I have not had one. And the last relationship I had was many years ago and it didn’t end very well. And I think at that time, I remember thinking if this is what my relationships are going to look like, I really need to take some time off, but now I’m curious as to why I’m not getting back in.”
We did some Inner Bonding work to discover the fear behind her not getting into a relationship – if there was some way her inner child was afraid she wouldn’t take care of herself within a relationship. What Renee said is, “I think there is some fear about boundaries or engulfment, putting too much attention on them and losing myself.”
“So, I said, “your inner child is afraid that you’re not going to make her your primary focus, that you’re going to be so concerned with making sure that this other person is happy with you, that you’re going to get lost. And that’s what the fear of engulfment is. The fear of engulfment is that you’re going to be more concerned with taking care of somebody else than with taking loving care of yourself, in order to try to have control over not being rejected by the other person. But you’re rejecting yourself when you try to have control over not being rejected by giving yourself up. And then your inner child feels unloved by you and unimportant to you.”
‘Yes,” said Renee, “that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. So what do I do?”
What I said to her is, “I suggest that in your everyday life, there are a lot of situations where you have the choice to either give yourself up and go along and be a caretaker of somebody, or tune into what’s loving to you and in your highest good and take care of yourself. Until you’re no longer giving yourself up with friends and family and at work, until you’re tuning inside before you go ahead and give somebody what you think they want from you, you’re going to unconsciously be pushing a relationship away from you. If you don’t practice Inner Bonding and learn to love yourself around people you are not in a primary relationship with, you won’t feel safe opening to a romantic relationship.”
I hope you can see that under the fear of engulfment, the fear of losing yourself, is the fear of rejection – the fear of losing the other. You would not give yourself up, which is what creates the fear of losing yourself, if you were not fearful of rejection. But the irony is that in giving yourself up to control not being rejected by the other person, you are rejecting yourself, which is what is creating your fear of being rejected by others. As I’ve said, when you learn to see, value, and love your true self, your fears of rejection and engulfment go away.
So, what does it look like to take loving care of yourself in the face of rejection?
Let’s say that I’m with somebody and they’re being angry and rejecting or they’re being blaming or judgmental, putting me down or whatever. So for me, being in step one of Inner Bonding, present in my body, I would feel the heartache of that. It feels bad. It feels very unloving when people behave that way. And what I would do is put my hand on my heart and breathe in and acknowledge the heartache by saying to my inner child, “Honey, this isn’t about you. Whatever’s going on with that person is what’s going on with them, and I know it feels really bad, but I’m here and spirit’s here and you are not alone.” With practice, this inner dialogue just takes a few seconds. Once I acknowledge the heartache and I breathe into it and I’m present for it, I open to my guidance and, since I’ve been practicing Inner Bonding for many years, this happens very fast for me. I ask, “What is loving to me in this situation?”
Actually, in any conflict like that, there are limited options. One is that I open to learning with that person if that’s appropriate. If I think that person might open, I might say, “This is hurting my heart, and I’d love to talk with you about what the problem is. If you’re willing to tone it down, we can talk about it.” And if that person is willing to do that, then we can have a good talk about what’s really happening. When I see that someone I care about is upset and acting out on me, offering a comforting hug might help that person to calm down and open with me. Some people respond well to my loving comfort and soothing words, and others don’t.
But if I know ahead of time, that that person is not going to open or it’s not somebody that I want to comfort or have an exploration with, then the only other loving action is what I call lovingly disengaging, which is to gently say, “This doesn’t feel good, and I don’t want to do this.” And then I disengage without anger to take loving care of myself. I don’t enter the interaction. I don’t get reactive. Once I disengage, I then continue to attend to my feelings. I notice if I’ve taken anything personally. I do an Inner Bonding process, continuing to bring love and compassion and gentleness and caring and tenderness to my feelings as I let them move through me. And actually, this only takes about five minutes. It’s generally very quick. And once I do that, once I release the feelings, then I’m fine and then I do something to make myself happy. I don’t carry any anger or resentment, so if the other person does eventually open, I can be there for it. I might check back in half an hour to see if he or she is ready to talk. If not, I accept that and continue to take loving care of myself. I accept that I can’t make them open – I can’t make them shift their intent and be open to learning with me.
It’s my higher guidance that lets me know which option is most loving to me in any given situaton.
One of the things that’s common for the wounded self to do when you are not loving and valuing yourself, is to compare yourself to others. Jennifer expressed this in one of my events: “I have a lot of fears around being compared to others. I usually become competitive or insecure and ultimately fear being less than the other and being rejected for who I am. I haven’t learned to appreciate my own individuality and I often feel threatened by others. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”
This is one of those issues that gradually gets healed as you practice Inner Bonding. The wounded self generally sees people in terms of ‘I’m one up or I’m one down. This person is better than me or I’m better than this person.’ When you learn to see and value your own unique and wonderful essence –
the perfect, magnificent, incredible spark of God that is who you are, you stop rejecting yourself by comparing yourself to others.
As you practice Inner Bonding and develop your spiritual connection, you get a deeper and deeper sense of who you truly are. And the more you love and embrace that essence that is you, the less you’re worried at all about what anybody else thinks or about comparing yourself to anybody. It just doesn’t make any sense to you anymore to do that because you know your own value. Once you are able to tune in and know who you are, and love and embrace and truly value the beauty that is you, why would you worry at all about what anybody else thinks? What others think of you becomes irrelevant to you.
I used to be very afraid of rejection and worry about what people thought of me. But since I’ve learned to see and value my true self, I don’t even think about it anymore. And you won’t either. You will reach a point where you don’t even think about what other people are thinking about you. As you develop your spiritual connection and your loving adult, you just stop thinking in those terms. At this point, you no longer experience the fears of rejection or engulfment. You have the emotional freedom to be all you came here to be.
I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
And you can heal your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:
And we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.