Talking to your Cat about Rejection
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Below is a sample chapter from my recently published book, “Job Hunter Road.” These chapters are by no means intended to make light of the difficult situation confronting so many job seekers. Rather, these pages are intended to bring some levity to what is a very stressful situation. As someone who spent almost a year looking for work myself, I have an understanding of how frustrating and exhausting the modern day job hunt can be.
Chapter 5 – Coping with Rejection
The psychological dynamics of job-hunting and rejection are unfortunately not properly addressed in most mainstream job-hunting handbooks. Studies indicate that ninety five percent of all job seekers experience significant depression and feelings of hopelessness, rejection and anger at some point in their job search. These feelings are normal and should not be ignored. While they generally subside within two weeks of securing full-time employment, it’s helpful to think creatively about how to deal with these feelings during the job hunt, so that they don’t overwhelm you and hamper your employment prospects.
For help in dealing with these powerful emotions, I sought out the advice of Dr. Lester P. Lotus, Ph.D. Dr. Lotus is a licensed family therapist and conflict mitigation consultant. He holds a Ph.D. in Anger Resolution, and has an extremely calming demeanor. He was recently cited by Positive Energy Monthly as a rising star in the field of interpersonal dynamics and anger management techniques. He is among the top ten most empathetic individuals in the world, and was recently appointed to the president’s National Task Force on Peace and Wellbeing.
He first rose to national attention following an incident in 2014 aboard a bus in Seattle, where he reportedly broke up an armed robbery with a spontaneous group hug. Since the incident in Seattle, Dr. Lotus has been called in as a consultant to develop strategies to reduce crime in twenty of the nation’s largest cities. After he moved to Miami the crime rate dropped by nearly fifty percent following the deployment of Lotus’s revolutionary new anti-crime tactic known as “Emergency Love.” I sat down with Dr. Lotus in his office in Miami.
“Well, it’s difficult, I know, coping with the rejection that you feel during the job search. It can be very scary, and that’s okay. I know how difficult it can be, because I’ve been there too, and people need to know that it’s alright to feel this way. We need to get this message out now – that everything’s okay.”
Dr. Lotus stared at me intently for a moment, and then suddenly stood up and walked over to the window and then shouted loudly into the street: “You are loved! All of you!!”
He returned to his seat, gazed at me for a moment, and then continued. “…So we need to get this message out to people who are still looking for jobs. They need to know that they’re not alone, because it can be very disconcerting and very disruptive to the process of self-actualization. It’s very healthy to have these feelings, and it’s important to talk about those feelings, to share your feelings. It’s all part of the healing process.”
Dr. Lotus had a deeply empathetic look in his eyes, and at several times during our discussion it appeared as if he were either going to embrace me or perhaps run to the window and start shouting about love again. His black turtleneck hugged his neck, and he stroked his goatee while speaking with a gentle and relaxing cadence. It rained softly outside, and Dr. Lotus offered me homemade chocolate chip cookies while pausing to observe a yellow finch on a tree outside his office.
“Thank you,” I said. The cookies were extraordinary.
Dr. Lotus continued. “It’s just not fair, I know, because you have to be confident and strong to get a job, but when you don’t have a job, you don’t feel very confident or very strong, and that can be very difficult and very intimidating. So I encourage my patients to talk about that, to work through those emotions.”
Dr. Lotus showed me a picture of his cat, Fluffy, which he kept on his desk next to his collection of stuffed animals. Dr. Lotus’s demeanor became quite intense as he recounted the day it all changed for him.
“…Well, I was in a very negative place in my life, and I had recently been laid off from my previous job as a facilitator for an educational consulting firm. They just didn’t need me anymore, and they decided to end the relationship, and it was a very hurtful time in my life. My cat, Fluffy, was ignoring me and giving me nasty looks, as if the whole situation were my fault.”
“My cat does that too,” I said.
“Yes, cats will do that. It’s their way, and we need to accept that and celebrate them for who they are,” Dr. Lotus advised me.
Presently Fluffy entered the room and jumped up onto Dr. Lotus’s desk. Fluffy stared directly into my eyes with a passive aggressive glare. He didn’t seem to be very happy that I was there. He looked exactly like the picture on Dr. Lotus’s desk.
Dr. Lotus continued. “I had been unemployed for almost a year, and I had pretty much gotten used to being ignored – it seemed that nobody would respond to any of my applications or inquiries. And one day when I was already feeling very low, my cat gave me this really hurtful look, and then began chewing on my very favorite meditation book, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.” Fluffy looked off towards the window, pretending not to listen.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, I said to the cat, ‘This isn’t fair. I don’t deserve to be treated this way, and I find this type of behavior very hostile, and I just don’t understand why you would eat my meditation books like this. Why are you being so hurtful? Why are you doing this to me?’ And I was in tears, and I think the cat was very taken aback, and usually he would just run under the bed when I spoke to him like this.”
Fluffy looked like someone who often ran under the bed.
“So, what happened?”
“Well, we actually had a very healthy dialogue that day, and we talked for hours, and it helped me to see things from the cat’s perspective. I was crying, and the cat was crying, and we just really cleared the air. It turns out that his needs weren’t being met, and I had neglected to take him for walks as frequently as he would have liked, and he wasn’t happy with the cat food that I’d been giving him. It was a new generic brand – not locally grown – and it made him feel very sad and under-appreciated. And it turns out that he was also very concerned about me, and he felt that there was nothing he could do to help me. I mean, what can a cat do?”
“I’m not sure.” I was still thinking about Dr. Lotus walking his cat, wondering how that worked. Did he use a leash or did the cat just follow along?
“…Well, he had tried to bring me a mouse once, but I told him that I didn’t want a mouse, and so he felt like a failure. So, I was able to see things from his perspective, and it was a very constructive and positive dialogue that we had. And it helped me to realize that sometimes cats will be very nasty, when they’re really just scared inside, and unhappy about themselves. And once I realized that, it gave me a whole new perspective on dealing with nasty cats – and mean people – during my job search, and I think that really helped me.”
“How did it help you?” I asked.
“Well, I was able to take those very negative and sad emotions, and turn them into something more life-affirming. And once I did that, I found a new job very easily. And now I’m surrounded by a positive energy, and I’m in a much happier place. And that’s very healthy. And I owe that to Fluffy. Thank you, Fluffy.”
“What a beautiful story about the bond that exists between a man and a cat,” I observed.
Dr. Lotus nodded. He offered me another batch of chocolate chip cookies while explaining that during his job search, he encountered many people who acted out in a way that was similar to Fluffy. He said that his experience with Fluffy gave him the insight he needed to deal with them in a more positive way, to transform their hidden sadness into a happier life energy that helped him get hired.
Dr. Lotus continued. “Well, there was this one gentleman in the Human Resources Department of a particular telecommunications firm that will remain nameless, and he said some very hurtful and derogatory things to me when I called him to inquire about a job that I had applied to several weeks earlier.”
“I’ve heard many derogatory things during my job search as well.”
“Yes, well we all know what that’s like,” Dr. Lotus frowned and began speaking in a slightly more hushed tone. “It was really quite shocking. I simply asked him if they had received my resume, and he mocked me and told me that I should never have applied to the job because I wasn’t qualified and I was wasting his time. He began using some very hurtful and pejorative language, and I found it very unprofessional and mean-spirited.”
“How did you handle it?”
“Well, I was about to end the conversation right there, when I realized that I was dealing with Fluffy all over again. It was the same emotional dynamic, and I could really tell that this man was hurting inside. If he were a cat, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have been chewing up my collection of meditation books at that very moment.”
“I’ve met a lot of people like that.” There was a powerful appetite out there for meditation books.
Dr. Lotus nodded. “And people aren’t mean to strangers unless they have some hidden pain, and it was clear that this man had a lot of hurt inside, so I confronted him about it. I told him that he was making me very sad, and I asked him why he was being so hurtful. And he was silent for a minute or two, and then he started shouting at me about the money he’d lost on the NASDAQ. But when he was all done shouting at me, he was quiet for a minute, and I just listened – allowing him space to just be as he was – without judgment or emotional reactivity. And within a few minutes he began talking quite despondently about how miserable his job was, and how he just couldn’t understand why anyone would actually be applying for a job with his company. He told me that his job was like a ‘slow death interrupted by an occasional staff meeting and a soggy bagel.’”
“I’ve heard that many jobs are like that.” I was beginning to feel compassion for the man that Dr. Lotus was telling me about.
Dr. Lotus continued. “So I told him that it was very healthy to grieve in this way, and I urged him to leave his job. It was a very positive phone conversation for me, because I realized that this was in fact not the right place for me to work. And I would never have known that had I not vigorously confronted his aggression with my own compassion.”
Dr. Lotus interrupted our conversation to check on a new batch of chocolate chip cookies that were being prepared in the kitchen adjacent to his office. The soothing smells of rising cookie dough and melted chocolate wafted through the hallway. Dr. Lotus returned with a fresh batch. Fluffy was interested in the cookies, but pretended not to be.
Dr. Lotus spoke more quietly now. “There was another incident, during an interview I had for a position as a human resources facilitator with an inventory consulting firm, and I found myself under attack by some very unhappy people. I had just come back for the second interview, and while I was sitting down to prepare for the interview, this very angry man walked in and began firing all these very hurtful and pointed questions at me, asking me to explain why I had left my previous job. I guess he didn’t like my explanation about why my previous employer had decided to end the relationship, and he just kept at me during the whole interview.”
“Why was he being so rude?”
“Well, he was a very unhappy man, and I think my inner contentedness threatened him. He had a very accusing tone, and he was absolutely fixated on the question of why I had left the previous company. Then he started interrogating me about my spreadsheet skills, and he told me that it would be very unusual for them to hire someone who had so little experience working with Microsoft Excel, and he was just being very provocative, trying to make me feel inadequate about spreadsheets.”
“They can be very challenging.”
“And then he launched into this diatribe about how I was completely unqualified for the position because I had never given a TED talk in my entire life, and he told me that he was one of the best TED talkers in the entire office. It was very hurtful.”
“Don’t feel bad,” I reassured Dr. Lotus. “I’ve actually never given a TED talk either, and I’m terrible with spreadsheets. I’ve never been very good with the advanced functions, like macros and pivot tables.”
Dr. Lotus looked at me with an appreciative expression. “…And then the other man started glaring at my resume while I sat there silently, and he began rolling his eyes as he read through it, and I really thought he was about to shred it right there in front of me.”
“…Like, with a paper shredder?”
“Oh yes – I’ve seen it done before.”
“That seems kind of harsh.”
“It is harsh, and I was worried that it might happen to my resume on this particular day, so before I let that happen, I just stood up, and I did what I always do when things get out of hand. I gave them a big group-hug, continental style.”
“What’s a continental style hug?” I asked.
“It’s where you lift the person off the ground with the force of your embrace.”
“So, they were speechless, and we hugged for at least a minute or two, and then I sat down, and their eyes were extremely wide and they looked very frightened, and I could tell that they were very confused. I told them that everything was going to be okay, and then I offered them some chocolate chip cookies that I had brought along with me in my satchel. And the man that looked like he was going to shred my resume, well he just got up and ran away.”
“That was nice of you – to offer them cookies.” It had never occurred to me to bring a satchel full of cookies to a job interview.
“…And the other man, the one who had made me feel inadequate because I had never given a TED talk, well he just sat there. He really didn’t know what to say. I would guess that about five minutes passed while we just sat in each other’s presence, saying nothing. It was beautiful. And then finally after the long silence, he started speaking excitedly in Italian, and then he stood up and gave me this enormous bear hug. He was trembling with joy, and he was telling me in Italian that he actually hated giving TED talks, and that he really wanted to be an opera singer. And then he started belting out a line from Puccini’s La Boheme, and the window nearly shattered because he sang so loud, and it turns out that he had the most beautiful voice.”
Dr. Lotus rushed to his stereo, and we were soon overwhelmed by the lush sounds of Pavarotti lamenting the death of Mimi. Fluffy purred loudly as the richly textured sonorities flooded into the room. It was obvious that Fluffy was familiar with this particular aria.
Lotus became excited and began speaking very loudly, projecting his voice over the sounds of Pavarotti. “So I congratulated him on his voice, and told him that he should be very proud of his gift, and he confided in me that he was going to leave his job in two weeks, and audition for the role of Rodolfo in an off-Broadway production next spring. I told him that it was very brave for him to share that with me, and then we both started singing, in Italian. It was marvelous! It was a spontaneous celebration of life and all things positive!”
“That’s a beautiful story,” I yelled over the music.
Lotus continued shouting enthusiastically. “Yes, well, I’m actually quite an avid opera fan, and I find that the music really helps me while I’m meditating in the evenings, and it just exudes the most poignant life energy, and it makes me feel in harmony with all living creatures. So we were both singing these Italian librettos very loudly, with tears in our eyes, and other people in the office started gathering around us, and they were staring in disbelief. And then it was a miracle, because some of the other employees started joining in. The office manager turned out to be the most amazing soprano, and she started singing the lines of Mimi right there near the water cooler, and before you know it, some of the interns joined in with their own rendition of Che gelida manina! It was just a beautiful moment, and we were all in tears. After the singing, we all had a group hug. Some of those people have become my dearest of friends – there is so much love!”
At this point, Dr. Lotus’s eyes were tearing up and he was waving his handkerchief through the air in imitation of Rodolfo. He ran to the window and proclaimed to the world once more: “You are loved!! All of you!”
“So, did you get the job?” I shouted.
“No, but it turned out to be a blessing nonetheless. As it happened, twelve of the employees at this particular inventory consulting firm quit their jobs that day to become actors, and they helped me find my next job as a creative therapist for the Broadway Actors Guild! And I loved this job very much, and it was very good to me. I met some of the most beautiful and warmest people in the world, and we had many wonderful and intimate moments together, and we cried a lot, and we were very happy to be together in such a positive, life-affirming work environment. And all of this, I owe to Fluffy.”
Lotus began singing an aria in honor of Fluffy. I couldn’t help but join in.
At the end of our discussion, Dr. Lotus, Fluffy, and I were all belting out the aria from Act Three of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. We ended our meeting with a group hug, and a tearful, heartfelt goodbye. Dr. Lotus took down my address, and assured me that he would send me a batch of chocolate chip cookies during the Holidays each year. He also invited me back to Miami to attend Fluffy’s birthday party next month.
Carl McCoy, copyright 2017
"Job Hunter Road" is available as a Kindle and paperback on Amazon: