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The Hidden Psychological Magnet for Emotional Pain

pain magnetOne of the characteristics of empowered people: They stay out of their own way.

Perhaps the number one method of getting in our own way is self-sabotaging personal expectations.

You’ve heard it said that disappointment is the difference between expectations and reality, right?

It could turn out that expectations govern so much more than disappointment. What about rejection, betrayal, humiliation, jealousy, and rage? Some of the most powerful negative emotions known to us are put in place by faulty expectations (as adults).

Distorted personal expectations may be the hidden magnet for emotional pain.

Here is a powerful, personal example:

We all seek approval from our tribes at some level. Problem is, there are those in our lives who historically have never approved and have no intention of approving. Critical parents and older siblings are among the common culprits here.

So, what do we do?

We often keep right on expecting them to approve. We try to impress. We confront them. We hope beyond hope that they will simply say, “I’m proud of you. I love you. I am so glad you’ve been a part of my life.”

I am no stranger to this scenario.

For decades, I sought my older brother’s approval. During childhood, I was interested in what he was interested in. I tried to impress him with my accomplishments. As an adult, I went out of my way to see him and share my life with him. I even moved closer to him in hopes that we’d become friends.

Nothing changed.

After 20 years of banging my head against this brick wall, I finally woke up.

Suddenly, I asked myself a powerful question:

If you’re seeking approval from someone who has never approved and likely never will, then what are you really seeking?

The answer hit me like a ton of bricks: Rejection!

That’s right. I was seeking the old, familiar rejection that had been part of our relationship since day one. I wasn’t ready to let it go. So, even though I could predict with 100% accuracy that he would not approve or being impressed with me, I went ahead and tried anyway, only to suffer the hurt, rejection, betrayal and ultimate resentment that was sure to follow.

Until I woke up to the hidden psychological pain magnet within me – old expectations on autopilot.

I was stunned. When I realized I doing little more than setting myself up for chronic rejection, I freed myself from the vicious cycle of approval-seeking. I just let it all go.

Then came the sense of true loss for not having the older brother that I always wanted.

Since then, I haven’t gone out of my way. And we haven’t spoken much at all. But it doesn’t hurt so much – certainly not like a thousand predictable rejections, one after the other.

Hope for approval and get rejection x 1000 incidents. By then, maybe you’re ready to change your expectation. Doing so will require you to give up on the way things have always been. You’ll need to let go of the psychological attachment to your unnecessary emotional pain.

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The Hidden Psychological Magnet for Emotional Pain

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). The Hidden Psychological Magnet for Emotional Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 2 Oct 2015
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