Have you ever experienced intense, almost unbearable, emotional pain and mental anguish as a result of a rejection?
I remember, on occasions in the past, trying to explain to my psychiatrist how the turmoil in my mind resembled an excruciating, almost physical, pain.
Such pain, of course, is likely to be particularly acute and devastating if that rejection comes from a parent, or, indeed, from both parents.
As I have stated in other posts on this site, I have the dubious distinction of having been rejected by both my parents on separate occasions – by my mother when I was thirteen years old and then, some years later, by my father and step-mother, making me homeless and, therefore, humiliatingly necessitating me to be taken in to the home of a friend’s parents, to whom I remain grateful (incidentally, my step-mother was deeply religious and founded a charity for the homeless – Watford New Hope Trust – a cruel irony that was far from lost on me, let me assure you).
Recent studies have shown that the emotional pain of rejection activates the same area of the brain that physical does; the brain area involved is known as: the ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX.
Further evidence that the way we experience emotional pain is similar to how we experience physical pain comes from the finding that the medication Tylenol, which is taken to reduce feelings of physical pain, also ameliorates sensations of emotional pain.
Also, a study connected to Purdue University, Australia, compared two groups of individuals:
GROUP 1 : were asked to recall a physically painful event that had taken place in the previous 5 years.
GROUP 2 : were asked to recall an emotionally painful event which had taken place in the last 5 years.
RESULTS : Those in GROUP 2 (who relived the adverse emotional event) reported experiencing higher levels of pain induced by this replaying in their minds of this unhappy event than those in GROUP 1 experienced as a result of recalling their physically painful event.
One reason for the level of pain we may feel as a result of rejection is that we have a marked tendency to blame ourselves for the rejection (we may infer we must be in some way lacking) even though such self-blame is very often objectively unwarranted.
Also, emotional pain caused by a rejection can keep coming back to haunt us, again and again and again…we may even obsessively think about our rejection and the person who rejected us. When it comes to physical pain, however, once it is over the memory of it does not result in us re-experiencing it.
Evolutionary Explanation Of Why Rejection Can Be So Painful:
We have evolved to find rejection painful as our distant ancestors lived in groups which increased their likelihood of survival. Rejection by the group would have endangered their survival so they evolved to find social rejection painful as it discouraged them from behaving in ways that could result in such rejection (just as, for example, we have evolved to find coming into direct contact with fire painful to help to prevent burning and damaging our skin).
And rejection by parents, for our ancestors, could easily prove fatal.
Dealing With Rejection (downloadable hypnosis MP3). Click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).