I've read about half the comments that were made on my paper. My reactions are mostly in the "dismay" family:
1. I can't believe I wrote something so obviously horrible
2. I can't believe I thought it was worth sending in to a journal.
3. I can't believe I didn't see how awful the paper was
4. The reviewer couldn't find a single positive thing to say about the paper. When I write reviews, I try to do that.
5. I should just ashcan this summer's worth of research. Throw it all away and....I don't know.
I have a really hard time when something I've done is sharply criticized. Part of it is a feeling of shame - "Oh, I did something SO BAD and someone else saw it?" and "How did I not see how awful this was?" Part of it is frustration: "But I wanted to be DONE with this." And part of it is just being overwhelmed: "There's so much I have to change, and it's been so long since I thought about it."
And doubt: "Is there any way I can make this good enough to even consider submitting to a MINOR journal?" I'd show it to someone, get help on it, but everyone around me is so busy with their own problems, and anyway: I'm embarrassed to show this P.O.C. (which is what I assume it is, now, based on the reviewer comments) to anyone else; I don't want anyone to see how STUPID I am.
And then there's fear. I'd like to just throw up my hands and not do research any more, but I can't. We have post-tenure review and if you slack off on scholarly productivity - well, it's not SAID anywhere that tenure will be revoked, but it's a possibility. (Tenure, on the college level, is NOT a sinecure. At least not any more).
I hate this SO MUCH. It's such a nasty game and the people who don't have "big names" or aren't at big research schools are at a slight disadvantage. And people who don't have oodles of time to research. I have to pin my hopes on doing one decent project a year, maybe, and getting a paper out of it.
I also hate that it takes six or eight months to hear anything back - you've largely forgotten about the project in the intervening time and it's hard to gear back up into it.
How do "serious" authors - people who make their living by writing - manage? They must have far, far thicker skins or a much greater sense of their own value as writers than I do. One negative review and I feel like a gibbering idiot who can't string sentences together and couldn't research my way out of a wet paper bag. (And maybe I can't. I don't know. I feel like unless I have the approval of someone else my work has no value)
One of the reasons I knit and sew is that I can look at what I did and immediately see that it's good (if it is). And that I don't really have to please anyone but myself. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I need more harsh criticism to (a) understand when my work is no good and (b) learn to tolerate it.
Then again, if I quit knitting and sewing and devoted that time to research, maybe I'd do better research work. I don't know. I suck. Everything sucks. I hate this so much.
The other thing is I get to questioning myself and my choices in life. If it had been my lot to marry and have a kid, at least I could point to the kid as something I did with my life. Some days I feel like there is NOTHING I can point to that is of any meaning that I did and that makes me miserable.
Edited to add: the part of me that's totally overwhelmed and full of woe and just wanting to go build a blanket fort and hide in it for a few days is fighting with the part of me that's stubborn and is saying "Rewrite the thing, submit to a different journal that it's more suited to, get it published, and then imagine you and the reviewer are in that scene from "Public Enemy" and you are James Cagney squashing the grapefruit of his nasty review in his face."