Alienation and Rejection: What to do When You Don’t Belong

Gary is twenty-two years old. He had been a star pitcher in high school, but as soon as the game was over, his confidence was over too.

He has read all the books on loneliness and took all the steps that they prescribe, but still did not feel accepted. He came in for counseling to find out why.

Client: “What can I do about my loneliness? I wan to fit in, but nothing works. I feel like I’m not welcomed anywhere.”

Therapist: “The feeling of alienation is a very painful one. People in pain want to relieve their discomfort. The trouble is that they are not qualified to diagnose the origins of their pain nor to prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. This is not a DIY situation. They will misdiagnose the cause of their pain, prescribe the wrong treatment and wind-up exacerbating the original wound.”

Client: “That’s the story of my life. I’m in pain, but what is causing it?”

Therapist: “No one has ever spelled it out for you. But first, tell me how you learned to manage it?”

Client: “I remember that my father and uncles always taught me to be tough and competitive. They’d say things like, `It’s a dog eat dog world out there’ and `Winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing’. I never felt that way. My cousins were like that, but I never was. I enjoyed playing baseball. I pitched left-handed and that made me valuable to the coach and the other players. But I wasn’t competitive enough for them. I’d rather go to the library than pep-rallies.”

Therapist: “These early perceptions tell me that you did not belong in your own family or with your teammates. You were different, and there was nothing you could do about it.”

Client: “I had the feeling that they were right and I was the one who was wrong. I didn’t want to be different. I still don’t, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Therapist: “Can you respect people who are not like everyone else?”

Client: “No, I can’t.”

Therapist; “That is your pain. You cannot respect yourself, you can only hold yourself in contempt for being `wrong’ and `different’. This feeling of inadequacy sets you up to feel inferior compared to other people who fit in and are appreciated more than you are.”

Client; “Sure, they have it easier.”

Therapist: “Not necessarily. Most of them are merely overcompensating for their own feelings of inferiority by striving for superiority over others the only way they can. That’s what `winning’ means to them. It doesn’t mean sportsmanship, exercise or athletic skill. It means building themselves up by tearing others down.”

Client: “I never felt that way. I enjoyed playing the sport for the fun of it.”

Therapist: “Your approach was healthier than theirs, but you were outnumbered. You felt that you didn’t belong to the majority.”

Client: “I didn’t.”

Therapist: “Before you can belong to the a group, you must first learn to accept yourself. There must be an independent identity apart from any external roles. You are still playing a role opposite other people’s roles. They have the same pain that you have and they aren’t doing any better with it than you are. Do not be deceived by their outward show of camaraderie and solidarity. As soon as the group breaks up for the night, they go back to feeling like lost sheep. They just don’t want you to find out, it would be too embarrassing.”

Client: “They sure had me fooled. So I can stop envying them. I don’t have to compare myself to them anymore.”

Therapist: “You compared yourself to them unfavorably. That is how you maintained your childhood self-image as the inferior, inadequate child who does not deserve to belong.”

Client: “I never felt good enough, no matter how much I did. How can I get an independent identity of my own?”

Therapist: “By making choices on your own behalf. For example, would your teammates ever come in here for counseling?”

Client: “No. They would never admit that they need help. They have to be self-reliant, not weak”

Therapist: “They do not have the courage to come in here and find out the truth about themselves. You did. When you were ready, you had the courage to come in and get some answers to your questions. How do you feel now about your decision to come in for counseling?”

Client: “It was a good decision.”

Therapist: “Was it perfect?”

Client: “No.”

Therapist: “Was it worthless?”

Client: “No.”

Therapist: “Then it must have been in the middle, it must have been good enough. It got you in here. How good was your judgment in making that decision?”

Client: “Good enough.”

Therapist: “Now you’ve got it. Do you feel out of control?”

Client: “No.”

Therapist: “Then you feel in control. You made it happen.”

Client: “Yes, I did.”

Therapist: “Were you being irresponsible or weak?”

Client: “ No. I am responsible for my own happiness.”

Therapist: “Were you playing a role or did you have an identity of your own?”

Client: “I felt like I had my own identity.”

Therapist: “Was it a high school kid’s identity?”

Client: “No. I feel like I did a mature thing.”

Therapist: “ Are you feeling dependent on others for your worth?”

Client: “No. I acted independently. I trusted my own judgment.”

Therapist: “That feeling is called confidence. What happened to your feeling that you don’t belong?”

Client: “I don’t have it now. I feel like I do belong. I belong to me. I have a me to belong to. I don’t have to depend on my buddies for my self-respect.”

Click to visit original source at PsychCentral

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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