For as long as I could remember, I dreamt of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for my university studies. I didn’t know whether I would major in engineering or literature – but MIT was destined to be my four-year home.
As soon as the early-admission window opened, I worked on my application including many hours writing just the essay piece. Finally, everything was typed up and sent off in the mail.
And every day for the next few months I anxiously awaited the postman’s delivery.
Finally, the package arrived.
There it was – the envelope with the prestigious MIT emblem emblazoned on the front. My heart raced and my palms were drenched with sweat.
I tore open the seal and read the contents.
I was rejected.
Sadness enveloped my soul. My dreams were crushed. My entire worldview devastated.
Over a four-year college.
Sadly, I subsequently set my sights on another university and was determined to put MIT out of mind. But the bitter disappointment lingered.
It seems so strange that not being accepted into a certain school could lead to such sorrow. But that’s the nature of rejection. The extent to which we make significant the achievement of a certain feat gives failure all its power over us.
Whether that be not getting into a certain school, being passed over for a certain professional role, or being rejected by a person of significance – anything can serve the purpose of inflicting emotional pain and lowering our self-esteem.
Interestingly, while rejection engages the same neural pathways in the brain as does physical pain, its impact can be far greater. Consider this thought experiment: recall a time you were in great bodily pain. It is very difficult for that memory to elicit physical pain. Yet try recollecting a painful rejection and the awful feelings often come flooding back into awareness.
Of course, we set it all up. We choose to give particular circumstances a great deal of meaning, and then bemoan our suffering should the situation not match a desired end result. Yet there’s a payoff to our rejection. It allows us to point an accusing finger at someone else, blaming them for our misery. In the challenging, insightful words of A Course in Miracles:
Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. In this view, you seek to find an innocence that is yours alone, and at the cost of someone else’s guilt. (T-26.X.4)
Just look at the original rejection, at least in terms of Judeo-Christian mythology: God rejected Adam and forced him from the Garden. And all our experiences since but relive that painful expulsion. I suffer, but it is someone else’s fault. I’m the innocent victim.
Suffering is an emphasis upon all the world has done to injure you. Like a dreamer unconscious of what brought on the attack against himself, he sees himself attacked unjustly and by something not himself. (T-27.VII.1)
Once we step out of our ego mind, we see at once the dysfunction we made. We recognize the temptation to perceive ourselves unfairly treated and can choose a different mindset – one that sees through the charade thereby enabling us to experience an inner peace and tranquil bliss that is beyond any form of attack.
Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of rejection and how we can escape its callous claws. I look forward to seeing you then.