Why Does Rejection Hurt?

Levonian

New Member
Why do rejection and social isolation hurt us so much? Why is the rejection that we receive from somebody who is the object of our affections perceived as an unbearable pain that we feel we can never overcome? We even express this sadness we feel as being a type of pain in our everyday language. We speak of "the pain of a broken heart" and of having "hurt feelings". Why do we use these metaphors to express our feelings of discomfort?

In a report published in the October 10 issue of Science (the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles presented results of an innovative study which demonstrated that the psychological discomfort experienced under conditions of social isolation is pain. Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) techniques, they demonstrated that the same neural pathways and neurotransmitters that are involved in the perception of physical pain are also activated in exactly the same manner when a person experiences emotional distress as a result of social isolation. The study involved human test subjects who played an online video game in which they were told they were playing with two other people. It was actually a computer simulation, and there were no other people involved. The computer was programmed to exclude the test subjects from the game after a few minutes, in order to induce a feeling of social rejection in the players. Blood flow and neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the section of the human brain that processes physical pain, was monitored. Results were consistent in all of the test subjects. All of the subjects demonstrated increased ACC activity after being excluded from the game, and the activity was strongest in the players who felt the greatest amount of distress at being excluded.

This study has widespread implications in the understanding of the behavior patterns of socially isolated people. All deaf people have experienced some form of social ostracism at some point in their lives. This study demonstrates that the anger expressed by deaf people towards the people who they feel have rejected them is an understandable response to having been inflicted psychological distress. Chronically abused children are subjected to extreme social isolation, and this occurs while their brains are still developing. The results of this study can better enable us to understand the antisocial behavior exhibited by adults who were abused as children. Drug abuse, which occurs at a much higher rate among people who perceive themselves as being excluded from normal social circles, can now be better understood as a conditioned response to pain stimuli.

The results of this study should also force us to take a hard look at our own everyday behavior. We should think twice before expressing anger towards our children and other people that we hold dear to us, and even our pets. The long term consequences of our actions may be more profound than we had previously believed.

References:

Eisenberger, Naomi I., Matthew D. Lieberman, Kipling D. Williams. "Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion". Science 302, 2003.

Abstract: A neuroimaging study examined the neural correlates of social exclusion and tested the hypothesis that the brain bases of social pain are similar to those of physical pain. Participants were scanned while playing a virtual ball-tossing game in which they were ultimately excluded. Paralleling results from physical pain studies, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was more active during exclusion than during inclusion and correlated positively with self-reported distress. Right ventral prefrontal cortex (RVPFC) was active during exclusion and correlated negatively with self-reported distress. ACC changes mediated the RVPFC-distress correlation, suggesting that RVPFC regulates the distress of social exclusion by disrupting ACC activity.

Panksepp, Jaak. "Feeling the Pain of Social Loss". Science 302, 2003.
 
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gnarlydorkette

New Member
Hmph, my interperation from what I have learned and read is that if one is isolated too long, one turns to the imagination and rewinding their memories of their former social life and start to focus on the flaws residing inside of them and in the end, they are killing themselves because of their negative self-abashment due to the fact that they have too much time on their hands to anaylze themselves instead of focusing on the happiness and fun of being around their friends/familiar people to distract themselves from destroying one's self. The negative outlook of self ends up being displaced into blaming on people around... (getting all psychologically on the audience)... It is just one of our numerous defense mechanisms because we are naturally social animals (unfortunately :-/ ) who need to depend on others to survive. We cannot accept that we are imperfect but we are able to substain to it someday in our lives. Survival of the fittest.. Darwin's theory.

[wow, I am impressed that I still remember many theories... prehaps I should explore into majoring in psychology :lol:]
 
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Sophia26

New Member
gnarlydorkette said:
Hmph, my interperation from what I have learned and read is that if one is isolated too long, one turns to the imagination and rewinding their memories of their former social life and start to focus on the flaws residing inside of them and in the end, they are killing themselves because of their negative self-abashment due to the fact that they have too much time on their hands to anaylze themselves instead of focusing on the happiness and fun of being around their friends/familiar people to distract themselves from destroying one's self.

I think you just describe me.
 

Fly Free

New Member
rejection DOES hurt -- but some ppl do learn to condition themselves to become more "immune" to it and recover from the rejection pains faster and move forward
 
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