The Roots of Rejection

Past rejection received keeps rearing its ugly head years after its initial appearance. While we may not recognize its roots, the sting of perceived rejection we feel seems to escalate along with our years.

Let me not allow you to get ahead of yourself without a clear definition of rejection. Rejection is a refusal to accept or acknowledge; to reject means to discard, push aside, or discount. It is a refusal to accept, to hear, to touch, or to consider important.

Dr. Ron Rohner, professor emeritus from the University of Connecticut, has studied this phenomenon for a lifetime. As a result, he has founded an international academic organization which meets yearly. Ron and I were invited to speak at its convention held in Istanbul, Turkey a decade ago. Attending this convention were professors and researchers from around the world, necessitating the need for presentations to be translated into multiple languages.

As we sat listening during the three days of meetings, we were astounded at the statistics of rejection experienced among various people groups. Our presentation, however, was devoid of statistics, and centered on two things, primarily: Our personal childhood experiences of rejection and their lasting results in our personal lives and marriage. We presented The Journey as a solution to this worldwide crisis. We focused on Rhoner’s four principle causes of rejection experienced early in life:

1. Experience of warmth and/or affection from parent(s) to child.
2. Experience of hostility and/or aggression from parent(s) to child.
3. Experience of indifference and/or neglect in childhood.
4. Undifferentiated experience (that is, the perception of rejection without actual experience of it).

Since Dr. Rohner’s original theory, which forms the foundation of a person’s experience, the theory has been expanded to include subsequent life experiences which exacerbate childhood experiences, creating behaviors such as: anger/aggression, rejection of others, poor self-worth, criminality, depression, isolation, etc.

One of Rohner’s latest publications (2019), entitled A Manual of Client Handouts for Clinical Practice, can be downloaded free of charge.

The atmosphere in today’s society tends to increase the occurrences and/or manifestations of rejection. The increased amount of greed, preoccupation with cell phones, drugs and alcohol, TV and video games – all of these take the attention away from relationships with children and others, leading to an addiction to “things.” A trip to the average restaurant where families can be seen around a table can prove that point: family members’ heads are bowed, not in communal prayer, but gazing in awe at cell phones. People are desperate for connection, but rather than connecting eye to eye and heart to heart, connection has become cell phone to cell phone. Thus, the intimate connection between parents, parent and child, and with friends is passed up for intimacy with an object.


– What do you think and feel about this?
– How has one or more of Rohner’s four points impacted your life and relationships today?

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