Rejection and why it hurts so much

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Rejection is the most common emotional wound in today’s society.   Many people suffer emotional pain, hurt, sadness and more as a result of how life is going on at that time.  Emotional pain manifests the same as physical pain, as the brain actives the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex, thus the experience.

This is what happens to us when we are rejected, be it socially outcast, bullied in the workplace or as a result of a relationship breakdown.  The pain and hurt are felt physically like stubbing a toe or being in an accident and breaking a leg!  This often will then bring on anger and disappointment with self or another and then one goes into the ‘blame game’.  We start to self-destruct which creates self-worth challenges that can start the downward spiral for many, dependent on the severity of the hurt.

Minor rejections may start through electronic communication (social media, texting, dating etc) which sets up scenarios, as a result of no physical sensing, and interpretation is then up to the person dependent on their psychological filtering.  These minor rejections can become bigger ones, similar to relationship breakups, loss of job, bullying or ignored by friends etc. creating a paralysing effect on the person being rejected.

As mentioned, rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain.  This has been shown through MRI studies why rejection hurts (neurologically speaking) as a result of the activation. It has also found that this emotional pain can be helped short term via analgesics.

Little children who suffer rejection at home or school are unable to express or understand it and thus the memory becomes locked in and is remembered, in future experiences,  throughout life.  Hopefully, with time it can be worked on to clear the memory that can be debilitating.

We need to understand that the pain felt emotionally also hurts the body in a physical form, in the head, chest, gut or elsewhere, thus the development of anger, anxiety, depression etc.  Yes, the body is hurt too!

It has been proven that there is a link between the brain region and the psychological experience, thus supporting the research that it is ‘real’ for the person who is experiencing the pain.

But why is our brain wired this way?  For more I suggest that you take a look at the following links.

Guy Winch, a leading psychologist says “Evolutionary psychologists believe it all started when we were hunter gatherers who lived in tribes. Since we could not survive alone, being ostracized from our tribe was basically a death sentence. As a result, we developed an early warning mechanism to alert us when we were at danger of being “kicked off the island” by our tribemates — and that was rejection. People who experienced rejection as more painful were more likely to change their behavior, remain in the tribe, and pass along their genes.”

The studies cited by Dr Alan Fogal, Professor of Psychology, in the link about social rejection. Where is that felt in the body? A broken heart?  Downhearted?  Is love and its loss more than metaphorically connected to the heart and chest?  Yes, says research from behavioral medicine and health psychology. The sense of safety that comes from being in the company of loved ones is partly created by vagal-parasympathetic activation which promotes an easy and relaxed integration of breathing and heart rate, both of which are located in the chest.

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