Feb 27 • 37M

OPENINGS #2

Moving Through Rejection & Beginning Our Healing Journey

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Margeaux Feldman
OPENINGS is a chance to ask me any questions you have about relationships, healing, care, and being a human in the world and I'll share my advice with you and our subscribers!
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Hello dear ones,

Welcome to Episode #2 of OPENINGS: a monthly advice podcast where I answer your questions. I’ve decided to make this offering available to all subscribers, as paywalls don’t really align with my values. It’s my hope that folks who can do so will become paid subscribers and help sustain me and this project.

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I’d love for you to submit your questions for episode 2, and you can do so by sending me an email at hello@margeauxfeldman.com with the subject line OPENINGS SUBMISSION. You have until Friday March 25th at 11:59pm MST.

You’ll find the transcript of the episode below, as well as links to resources I mentioned in the podcast.

With softness,

Margeaux


LINKS

On Rejection: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/rejection#:~:text=In%20the%20field%20of%20mental,significant%20other%20ends%20a%20relationship.

Finding a somatic therapist: https://directory.traumahealing.org/

Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists: https://www.cavershambooksellers.com/search/1683733487


TRANSCRIPT

Hello dear ones. This is episode #2 of OPENINGS: a monthly advice podcast where I tackle your questions. Today we're gonna talk about how to self soothe when we are feeling rejection. And I'm going to offer some tangible strategies for folks who are at the beginning of their healing journey and are feeling stuck on knowing how or where to begin.

So our first question is, “I'm struggling to not cut people off, as soon as I perceive rejection, because of disorganized attachment. How do I stop or soothe?” This question really made me curious around, like, what rejection is like, you know, we, it's something that we really feel somatically in our bodies, and so I went searching for a definition to anchor us into really to anchor me. The website goodtherapy.com defines rejection as “the feelings of shame, sadness, or grief that people feel when they are not accepted by others.” So rejection really, is this feeling like I don't belong and/or it's that feeling of being disconnected from others. Some fun facts that I learnt about rejection is that it's believed to have developed as an evolutionary tool to alert humans who are at risk of being ostracized from the group they belong to. Now, in the early days of like, human evolution, being rejected from our group that we are a part of, could quite literally result in death, as was dangerous to be alone. We really required belonging on a survival based level. And so to avoid rejection from the group, people would adapt to meet the group's needs. In this way, you know, the feeling of rejection sucks for all humans, regardless of whether you have attachment trauma.

Now let's bring attachment trauma into the scene. So I am also a disorganized attachment BB. And learning about disorganized attachment only happened for me about two years ago, because I feel like the common conversations I was hearing around attachment trauma were rooted in either being anxiously attached or avoidantly attached. I learned about disorganized attachment from Jessica Fern’s book Polysecure which I am constantly quoting from in like recommending ad nauseum. But here's another plug for it. The book you know is, is for folks who are engaging in different forms of nonmonogamy but that's only like one section of the book. So even if you are someone who practices monogamy, I still think that the majority of the book is super, super helpful. So there's my my plug there.

Um, so disorganized attachment essentially occurs when our caregivers, the people who are supposed to soothe us, protect us and keep us safe, are actually the ones who are causing us harm. When we perceive danger, the first place that we look especially as like infants and children, and I would even say into adolescence, is we we turn to our caregivers for comfort, we look to them to keep us safe. Now, if we have a caregiver or caregivers who are abusive, who are neglectful, who are cruel, who are unable to show up for us, and are doing things that are, you know, at times, quite literally putting us in danger, our nervous system doesn't actually know what to to there, because it's like, oh, there's this part of me that biologically is like turning to this person to keep me safe. And then in the same moment, I'm also recognizing that I need to get away from this person. This person isn't safe for me. And so this is why folks with disorganized attachment experience in this paradoxical desire for closeness and desire to flee to keep themselves as far away as possible from those that they desire to connect to. And our wires really between like, what is safety, and what is danger really get crossed, because again, the people who are supposed to keep us safe, are the people who are putting us in danger. And this is why for so many folks with disorganized attachment, when you are met by someone later in life, who really wants to like support your safety and your security, that can actually be so terrifying, because we've learned to perceive safety as dangerous. That's a very quick gloss of disorganized attachment.

Now, the fear of rejection, I would say is present in all attachment styles. What's different is how we react or respond to it. So for those who are anxiously attached, you'll try to avoid rejection at all costs, by predicting what the other person wants, and sacrificing your own needs in turn. In this way, your attachment longings are really chronically activated. So we avoid rejection, by placing the other’s needs before own. Avoidantly attached people will try to avoid rejection by being totally self sufficient, and never asking for their needs to be met. And so this is an act of deactivating one's attachment longings. So we'll pull away from others in order to avoid rejection. Now for folks with disorganized attachment, we've learned to internalize rejection, as a truth about our being. So, you know, these repeated instances of rejection, growing up, translated into, I am unlovable, I am broken. The reason I'm being rejected must be my fault. And at the same time, we have this deep difficulty trusting others and are constantly looking for evidence that will be rejected. So that like hypervigilance piece there, you know, translates into this story of like, it's only a matter of time before they reject me. So, you know, it makes a lot of sense to me, that the person who submitted this question moves more towards cutting people off as soon as they perceive rejection, because that helps us stop the rejection cycle or the possibility of rejection.

So how do we stop and soothe in these moments? First, I mean, I love that the word stop is already in this question, because that's really the first step. We have to pause. We have to be with the feeling that's coming up. Now, rejection can get really muddled up in a whole host of other feelings such a shame, sadness, grief, disappointment. And so we need to kind of figure out like, what is underneath the feeling of rejection? Is it fear? Is it disappointment? Is it grief? That pause, you know, can take any amount of time, depending on, you know, what your, what your process is for processing your feelings. But giving ourselves that space first to like, stop and reflect is really key because it's going to help us make the request that we need to get a particular need met. And I'll get to that step in a second. So, first step, we pause, and we be with the feeling that's coming up, we try to discern what is underneath that fear, or that feeling rather of rejection.

Then, this is like this, probably the scariest part for so many, we name the feeling with the person that we perceive is rejecting us. And we do that using nonviolent communication. So the model of nonviolent communication is about centering ourselves by using an I statement. And the sort of structure is, I feel X when this happens, or when you do x. And then we make a request: I’d like it if you did this, or I need you to not do this. Here's something else that you could do instead. And I'll flesh this out with an example. So, you know, this might look like I felt rejected, or I perceived rejection, when you said that you weren't interested in watching the movie I suggested. So there we are taking accountability for that feeling of rejection. And we're being really clear about what action or behavior caused that feeling to come to the surface. It's really important for us to be able to give other folks like concrete feedback on their actions and behaviors. So that naming the feeling with the person using nonviolent communication is the next step.

Step number three: naming the belief that's coming up. So when we feel a feeling such as rejection, it is often accompanied by a belief. It might be that I'm unlovable; it might be that that person doesn't want to spend time with us. And, you know, our brain is so hardwired towards a negativity bias, because that's what helps keep us alive, that we might be ignoring all other evidence to suggest that, you know, maybe, you know, it has absolutely nothing to do with us. And this is why I love Brené Brown’s a statement, the story I'm telling myself. Now, I talked in the last issue of CARESCAPES about some of you know, my beefs with Brené Brown, not a perfect human, none of us are. But this tool has quite literally transformed all of my interpersonal relationships. And so we use this phrase, the story I'm telling myself is, and so here, the story might be, you're not interested in spending time with me.

The reason I love this phrasing is again, because we are taking accountability for our feelings, our thoughts, our beliefs. Then we ask: is that story true for you? We get the counter-evidence, I'm gonna say that the chances are super, super, super unlikely — I don't know if I've ever had a situation in which I've said, the story I'm telling myself is this and the person said, Yeah, that's true for me. So once we get that counter-evidence, then that allows us to climb down what people call the ladder of inference, where we go from observation, to full blown like belief and conclusion about what the thing we observed means. So we get to climb back down that ladder. So naming the story.

Then we make a request. Step four. Again, this is where we really have to be accountable to what our needs are. So, you know, an example might be next time, if you don't want to do the thing that I've suggested, could you offer another suggestion? That would tell me that you're still interested in connecting. So this might take the form of, hmm, I'm not sure if I'm in the mood for a dramatic movie right now. Would you be down to watch something silly instead? And this sort of brings us back to like that counter story, right? That person may say to you actually, like, No, what I'm just feeling is like, really overwhelmed by the state of the world right now. And watching like a super intense, like, drama just feels way too overwhelming. I just need something really light that we could watch and like laugh at together. So yeah, if someone doesn't want to do the thing that we have asked, it's really nice, when we say no, to offer something else instead. So those are the four sort of steps for, you know, stopping and, you know, getting different getting a different narrative. And I think that this process can be really soothing.

The other thing that I want to name is that, you know, I will often experience the feeling of rejection, when I've asked someone to do something with me, and they're unavailable. If I'm in an already activated state, the place that my trauma brain goes to is like, this is evidence that they don't want to spend time with you. And so again, I can go through those steps. And I can say to this person, you know, the story I'm telling myself is that you don't want to spend time with me, is that true for you? And then they get to be like, Oh, no, babe, but like, I totally want to hang out. I'm also just feeling really overwhelmed right now. So making like a different plan is just like not feeling possible for me. But I'm gonna follow up with you tomorrow. We might still after this, be feeling some grief, some shame, some rejection, and disappointment. And it's really important for us to build our capacity to hold space for disappointment, because sometimes people aren't going to be able to show up for us in the way that we need, when we need them to or when we want them to. And so here's this like, piece of self soothing that we can do. And it's to give ourselves the experience of connection that we wanted. So let's just say, you know, and this is actually a real example from my life, one day, I just like thought it would be really fun to go and get a manicure with a friend. And I contacted three different friends, one after another and all of them were busy.

One option could have been to just abandon the whole plan and say, Well, I'm not going to do this. But in abandoning the plan, I'm not meeting the desire — at least part of the desire — that I had, which was to get a manicure. In choosing to go through with the plan, what I'm actually doing is connecting with myself, I am showing that inner little one inside of me that even if other people can't show up for me, I can show up for me. One strategy that I've had to develop around this is when I'm like making a request from someone, whether that's to spend time together or to provide some support, I always have a backup plan ready. And that backup plan is always centered around me doing something nice for me. So, because what I find is that when I'm making that backup plan, like reactively, like after the fact, and I'm like, Okay, well, I guess I'll do this, I'm, it kind of feels like a second place prize, rather than something that I actually feel excited about. And so in making that plan proactively, I actually feel still really good about the first thing that I had hoped for not happening, because it actually has created space for me to do this other thing, instead. So those are some like thoughts and feelings about, you know, being able to work with that feeling, or perception of rejection when it comes up.

The second and last question that I'll be tackling in this episode is about where to begin, you know, I'm just gonna read the question: I am at the very beginning of my journey to recover from childhood trauma. And I don't know how to find an entry point, like, where to begin, or even how to begin. Do you have any thoughts, suggestions or advice for me, I'm feeling quite stuck.

So first, off the bat, I just want to celebrate the fuck out of the fact that you were just even asking this question, which shows to me that you might not be quite as stuck as you maybe think. Because you're reaching out to get support from another human. And I just feel really grateful that you've trusted me with this question. I also want to normalize how overwhelming this like moment is, when we realize like holy shit, I've got some stuff to deal with. And we have to figure out like, where to begin. It's overwhelming, like emotionally, and also logistically. And let's remember that when our trauma brain is activated, our prefrontal cortex is a lot harder to access. And our prefrontal cortex is where our capacity for executive functioning lives. And so like our capacity to make a list of like, alright, here are the next steps. And then to follow through on that list is, you know, for many of us practically non existent. I'm going to share the two kind of core pieces or three core pieces that have played a huge part for me in my own healing journey. And it doesn't really matter which one of these you start with, they can all provide something individually and together.

So, the first and I say this with the caveat of like, if this is accessible for you, financially, to find a therapist, healer, coach, peer support person, whomever, that's kind of working in a healing modality that's trauma informed, to find someone who specializes in childhood trauma. And I would look specifically for therapists who work in somatic therapy. All trauma lives in our body, but like childhood trauma, especially especially lives in our body because we had to learn how to dissociate in order to survive. So I think finding someone who really understands that is going to be key.

One resource you can use is the directory of somatic experiencing practitioners. And I'll give the the you the link for that in a second. But I'll also have it in the notes for this episode, so you can find the link. But basically, you can enter in wherever you are located in the world. And it will pull up practitioners who are trained in somatics. This is specifically in the modality of somatic experiencing, there are other forms of somatic therapy approaches, such as EMDR, parts work, generative somatics. And there's a lot of overlap between some of those. But this would be probably the first place to start if you're just like, I just need one go point.

If you find someone that you're interested in working with, and part of how I do that is, you know, it's really important for me, as someone who's queer to have a queer therapist, ideally, they have experience working with folks who are trans and non binary. You know, I want to know that our politics are aligned. And, you know, some of the language that you know, you can look for is, you know, anything around, you know, supporting sex workers, being, you know, inclusive of LGBTQ folks, if they work with like different kinds of like relationship styles, you know, and are competent in like forms of non monogamy. Again, those are some of the things that I'm looking for, in addition to are you practicing some form of some form of somatic modality, or modalities.

Once you've like found, you know, a couple of humans, ideally who look like they might be a right fit, you send that email, and ask for a free consultation to figure out if you're the right fit. In my experience, almost all therapists offer this, it's usually like 30 minutes. And you want to have some questions prepared that are going to really help you assess like, is this person the right fit for me? So some of the questions that I might ask are: How do you define trauma? For me, it's really important that folks acknowledge that we can't just be focused on the individual when healing trauma, we need to acknowledge the systemic forces at play, I want to make sure that that person doesn't have this like pathologizing understanding of trauma as some sort of individual flaw to be cured. I would ask what are like what might a session together look like? Just so I can get a sense of like, you know, how how they show up to that space, how they create the container that we're going to be working in together. You might ask them: What does it mean for you to be trauma informed? You know, this, like trauma informed has become this kind of like buzz language. And I see it being used by people who, again, aren't acknowledging that role of like, systemic oppression, in causing trauma. And I just don't know how you can be trauma informed without acknowledging that. Another question I would ask is, like, have you worked with other folks who are [insert identity group]? So, you know, if, for example, like you are getting the sense that this person might not be queer, you know, or maybe they say outright, so you know, they identify that they are straight, then just getting more of a sense of like, what their experience is working with folks that are in an identity category you align with, you know, I don't want to be someone's like first, like trans nonbinary client. That's not the role that I want to play.

It's important to remember that you're trying to find the right fit, and you don't have to start working with someone that you're not feeling 100% about. Now, of course, you have to bear in mind the fact that there might be parts of us that are totally terrified of starting therapy, and might be you know, sprinkling little seeds of doubt in And so being 100% might not be possible. But I really just want us to be practicing discernment around you know who we're trusting this like deeply important work with.

If therapy isn't accessible or desirable, there's so much that you can do through self directed reading and learning. One of my favorite favorite resources is Janina Fisher's workbook, Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma. Again, Janina J A N, I N, A, Fisher, F I S, H, E, R, and her workbook Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma. I'd recommend taking it real slow to start working with one section at a time. This is essentially a form of titration, which is a trauma therapy word for doing things in small little bits. Learning about trauma and how it shows up for us can be super activating. Which is why we don't want to overdo it. There's a lot you're gonna learn from that workbook. And we're not like students in school where you have to cram everything so that we can regurgitate it on a test, we have to really take things slow.

Finally, if possible, connecting with other humans that live with trauma. I know that I mean, I think that virtually every human is someone who's living with trauma, whether they acknowledge it or not, because the world we live in is deeply traumatizing. And the forms of love that we have been given are very traumatic. So that's my hot take — some people may disagree. But you know, you may or may not have access to those humans. And this is where I feel like social media is such an asset, following accounts on Instagram, or like Reddit threads, for folks that are living with childhood trauma, or whatever kind of trauma you in particular have experienced. Often the people who run those accounts will offer workshops, peer support groups or classes that you can take. This is a great way to connect with other humans, who are going to understand your experience, even if your experience is not identical, because none of us have had identical experiences. But knowing that we have someone else to connect with, who we don't have to, like explain our trauma to has been really, really, really important for my own healing. I hope that those three suggestions, you know, can be a good starting point, just pick one.

And I guess the other piece, I would say is if you have humans in your life, who can offer support to call on them. I when I got the last therapist that I've been working with for about five years now, I made a post on Facebook, asking if people had recommendations for therapists who do more like body based work, because I knew that's what I needed. And I figured I'm just going to reach out to my community first, because that feels less overwhelming than looking at a website and reading through like hundreds of different like therapist profiles. You might also ask someone in your life, if they can support you in doing some of that research. This is something that I've done for folks in my life before. So you know, reaching out and seeing if you can get some of that concrete support is a really great tool to have in your toolbox. Because this is an overwhelming process and I just want to normalize that again.

Okay, folks, that is the end of OPENINGS #2. Reminder/FYI. I've now opened up OPENINGS to all CARESCAPES subscribers, because I want to get your questions and you know, I don't want to skip a month because there have been no questions submitted. So thank you to paid subscribers for offering some financial support that can allow me to make this totally accessible for everyone. It's really important for me that everyone has access to what I can offer. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

If you want to submit a question to me, this info will be on this the page for this post, so you'll have it written down. But you can send me an email at hello@margeaux\feldman.com with the subject line OPENINGS SUBMISSION, and I'd ask that you keep your question to 150 words or less. Just makes it easier for me to really tackle in a tangible way. And usually I give folks like a deadline of submitting the week before I do this recording. So I'll have that deadline information for you and I'll send out a reminder as well. Okay, here we are at the end. Thank you so, so much for listening. Thank you to the folks who submitted questions. Thank you to everyone for subscribing to care scapes and thank you to folks who make monthly financial contributions. They are so so appreciated and they make this work sustainable for me. Okay, sending you so much softness, and I'll see you next month.