Emotional First Aid: 4 Steps to Overcome Rejection


emotional first aidIn his book “Emotional First Aid,” psychologist Guy Winch shows us the strategies he uses with patients in his own practice to help heal psychological wounds so that we can feel better quickly and improve our lives over the long haul. Dr. Winch discusses the seven most common psychological injuries we suffer from in daily life: rejection, loneliness, loss, guilt, rumination, failure, and self-esteem. I was especially intrigued by rejection since, well, I have some hangups.

I asked him what his first aid would be for this emotion. Here are his four steps for overcoming rejection.

“Rejections are the cuts and scrapes of daily life and even small cuts can really sting. One of the reasons people tend to experience such sharp emotional pain when they encounter rejection is that the same areas in the brain are activated when people experience rejection as when they experience physical pain.

“Despite how common rejection is, few people know how to soothe the emotional pain it elicits, and fewer still recognize the other psychological wounds it inflicts. In addition to causing sharp emotional pain, rejection also damages your self-esteem, it makes you angrier and it increases aggressive impulses (one of the main reasons people punch walls), and it destabilizes your need to feel connected-as though you ‘belong’.

“So, instead of reaching for the ice-cream, having a drink, numbing yourself with TV or video games, try the following:

  1. Don’t kick yourself when you’re already down-it will only make you feel worse. If the person who rejected you gave you the “It isn’t you it’s me” speech-believe them! And if they don’t give you that speech, believe it’s them anyway-why feel worse if you don’t have to?
  2. Write a brief paragraph about a meaningful quality you possess; one that makes you a great catch (e.g., you’re caring, considerate, and emotionally available), one that makes you a great employee (e.g., you work hard, you’re responsible, you’re motivated), or one that makes you a great friend (e.g., you’re a good listener, you like to have fun, you’re loyal).
  3. Have a social snack. Just like snacking can alleviate hunger, having a social snack can alleviate the hurt and anger you feel by reminding you that people value you and care about you. So call a great friend, go play with your niece, or Skype grandpa for a chat.
  4. Connect with groups you belong to that value your company and membership. Go to church or your house of worship and remind yourself you belong to a caring congregation, get together with friends from your softball or bowling team, or write an entry in the family blog about a warm memory of a family get-together.”

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. Elizabeth

    Another of my favorites from your archives. I really need to read this book. (obviously I’m feeling rejected as well as insecure lately). I’m going to take some of these suggestions and since it’s Friday, I have the whole weekend to work on feeling better.

    1. Elizabeth

      P.S. I just bought the Kindle version of this book to read this weekend. Oh boy, in addition to working a job full time, I sure do love my other full time job of dealing with mental illness (eyes roll).