Valentine’s Day looms: Jason Comely's rejection therapy may be for you
Flowers and candy are among the least worrisome expectations many of us face on Valentine's Day. A far more daunting one for some? Having someone to celebrate the day with in the first place.
For some of us, the Hallmark holiday has a way of reminding us of what we spend our lives avoiding: the cold, bitter feeling of rejection.
But for Jason Comely, a self-proclaimed introvert, rejection has become a kind of old friend. He's the inventor of Rejection Therapy, a game with just one rule: to be rejected every single day of your life.
"[I]t’s designed to help people overcome the fear of rejection," says Comely. "To get out of their comfort zones and have fun."
The game consists of a pack of cards. Each has an unreasonable demand, like "Ask for a tour of a restaurant’s kitchen" and "Offer a stranger some food." Take those requests to anyone – a friend or a complete stranger – and celebrate your victory when they respond with a flat, NO.
The pursuit of rejection is normally not for the faint of heart, but the idea was born in 2009 when Comely himself was at his most vulnerable.
"After my divorce, it was a very hard divorce and I was very de-moralized and my confidence was shattered. Here I was trying to re-start my life...I was living alone in this one-bedroom apartment with three cats at the time," says Comely.
"I was having full-blown panic attacks in very innocent situations, like even just talking to a stranger at the gym. I couldn’t do it. I’d break out in a sweat. I just realized I was afraid of rejection and I had basically two options, either try and avoid it, which is what I was already doing, or face it head on."
So every day Comely went out of his way to be rejected, and slowly learned to feel great about it.
[When] I would push through and finally get that rejection, I’d be pumping my fist. Yes! It totally redefined rejection. - Jason Comely, inventor of Rejection Therapy
In developing the game, Comely has tested a number of his own questions. Once, at a Thai restaurant, Comely asked the server if he could watch his meal being cooked in the kitchen. She responded with a puzzled, passive aggressive ‘we-don’t-usually-let-people-do-that’ response.
That wasn’t enough rejection for Comely.
"I said, ‘oh, not usually. So I can?" Comely says. "And she said no. I said, are you sure?’ No. And her face sort of stiffened up like okay, it’s time to order now."
Comely thanked the server and left her a nice tip at the end of dinner.
"It’s always important to be respectful of the other person and empathetic," he said.
A 'life-changing' experience
Comely, a freelance IT consultant on the side, has launched three editions of the game since 2010, sold at $10 apiece. There's a Classic Edition for beginners, a version with harder challenges called the Blue Pill Edition and a version for entrepreneurs.
A fourth version is scheduled to be released later this year, but Comely is not revealing its theme yet. He says sales for the game tend to spike at the beginning of a school year, but that he doesn't really keep track of how many he's sold.
"It is a process. It’s not a magic pill or anything like that. Start small. Work a little bit out of your comfort zone," says Comely.
"You feel great. That was another thing about rejection therapy too is that I would push through and finally get that rejection, I’d be pumping my fist. Yes! It totally redefined rejection."
Comely says it's been a life-changing experience. The panic attacks and anxiety that once controlled his life have been eliminated.
"The great thing about rejection is, it gives you an answer right away. Instead of dwelling over it, occupying your thoughts, you're able to get it out of the way," says Comely. "[I]n playing Rejection Therapy...only ask for things that you want because you might just get it."