What Is 'Rejection Therapy,' And How Can It Help You Become More Successful?

The fear of rejection in any walk of life is a very powerful and constricting emotion that can hold us back from achieving our goals. The sense of dread and despair can be paralytic, a feeling known as atychiphobia, a derivative of the Greek word 'atyches' translated to unfortunate. Nevertheless, this hasn't deterred a growing number of confident people combating this fear by embracing #rejectiontherapy as a self-help guide to get through daily life. The purpose of this newfound craze is to deliberately engineer random encounters with the aim of getting rejected. This is intended to work as a coping mechanism for the negative connotations of rejection and flip this into a positive experience. 

However, this term was not coined by a trained therapist like you might think, but rather by a freelance I.T. consultant after a separation from his ex-wife. Jason Comely took inspiration for this idea from Spetsnaz, a Russian special forces unit that tests its recruits by placing them in extreme situations to help them overcome intense fear. Here, we'll analyze the psychology behind this unconventional self-help technique and why this may be a successful strategy to overcome that fear threshold and learn to accept rejection as part of life.

The psychology behind rejection therapy

Rejection is a hurtful experience and our response to it involves putting up "emotional walls" as espoused by psychotherapist Sharon Martin, LCSW in Psychology Today. These walls act as a protective barrier that keeps us from sharing vulnerabilities about ourselves, but the consequence of this introversion is to stop us from taking risks that could better our lives. It is this state of paralysis that, as psychologist Dr. Elisabeth Morray explained to PureWow, therapists seek to remove from their clients. "Over time and with practice, people 'desensitize' to their anxiety — they are able to do all kinds of behaviors other than avoiding it, including risking rejection if doing so will be workable in terms of their lives and values," Morray said. 

It is important to emphasize that this assessment, however, is for those individuals who've sought clinical support whereas those currently trending on TikTok are purportedly engaging in DIY therapy. Maintaining a video diary of posing random but mostly benign questions to strangers is a world away from confiding to a clinical professional your most troubling anxieties and phobias.

Why rejection therapy could be a successful strategy

As previously mentioned, therapists are trained to help clients overcome the fear of rejection and associated anxieties. In a less formal setting, Comely later turned his rejection therapy concept into a trading card game whereby each card suggests a scenario to be potentially rejected in. This may be a more appropriate and cost-effective strategy to help raise stunted self-confidence and self-esteem in everyday life than seeking clinical expertise. 

Despite the potential positive aspects of this quasi-therapy, Morray emphasizes that caution must be taken in pursuing a solo strategy if one's atychiphobia is severe. "The risk of 'going it alone' is that without the support of someone who understands how to approach exposure therapy in healthy and responsible ways, pushing yourself head-first into the kinds of situations you fear can actually be traumatic in ways that will increase your fears, rather than reducing them," she explained to PureWow.