Growing up with a parent who was emotionally unavailable or highly critical can cause someone to develop a strong fear of rejection in other relationships.

Rejection involves being excluded from a social relationship or interaction. It can be active – for example in acts of bullying or teasing. Or it can be passive – for example in the acts of giving the silent treatment or ignoring someone.

Although rejection is often deliberate – that is, the rejector does it on purpose – it doesn’t have to be. We actually differ in the extent to which we are sensitive to rejection and may think that someone is rejecting us when they are not.

People who are rejection-sensitive may feel the need to be liked by everyone.

If they are rejected, they may work extra hard to try to win that person’s favour again. This reaction to rejection can lead to people-pleasing behaviour as well as extensive ingratiating behaviours.

Rejection can cause us to feel chronically insecure in relationships and to overreact to perceived rejection by our partner. The rejected feelings may lead us to act hostile, jealous, or controlling—all things which are difficult for relationships to withstand. This is just one reason why learning how to shift our perceptions of rejection—and our responses to it—may be beneficial for developing healthy relationships.

Studies have shown that self-regulation, which involves monitoring and controlling your emotional and behavioural responses, is one way to coping with rejection sensitivity. For instance, when you perceive a potential sign of rejection, it may help to stop and reflect on the situation rather than responding immediately.

One way to do this is to look for alternative explanations for the behaviour instead of assuming the worst. If you are unable to make these changes on your own, holistic counselling may assist you with emotional regulation and trauma recovery.