Vagus nerve, rejection, parasympathetic nervous system, social rejection, heartache,

How Rejection Causes Pain In Your Body – The Physiological Impact Of Rejection

Vagus nerve, rejection, parasympathetic nervous system, social rejection,

The Physiological Impact of Rejection

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the ways that social rejection impacts your body, causing a plethora of physical symptoms.

First a quick update:

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Now, let’s talk about the ways that social rejection impacts your body, causing a plethora of physical symptoms.

We are hardwired to bond, unite and to form connections with people. Rejection results in the loss of connection and, in turn, the feeling of being isolated, cutoff, disconnected, unwanted, unloved or inferior.

Research reveals that the reason that rejection is so painful is because rejection is processed by the brain as physical pain. That means in the same area of the brain where it processes physical pain, it also processes social rejection. One study found that if you were to have hot coffee spilled on you, your brain would process that in the same way that it would process social rejection or vice versa. In other words, social rejection is actually like feeling physical pain.

Rejection also creates pain on various other levels.

The vagus nerve has control over many bodily functions. When turned on, the vagus nerve engages the parasympathetic nervous system – PNS – calm, rest and digest. The vagus nerve can slow the heart’s beating and lower blood pressure; it controls how fast you breathe, the process of digestion, your bladder, voice control, gag reflex, hearing, and sweating, amongst many other functions.

When the ‘tone’ of the vagus nerve is optimal, the body functions well. However, stress and over-stimulation of the vagus nerve can create neck pain, tension headaches, chest pain, stomach pain, nausea, etc.

Further, shallow breathing, fear, stress and anxiety all negatively impact the vagus nerve and, in turn, result in all sorts of bodily imbalances – pains, indigestion, bladder problems, low or high blood pressure, fainting, and so forth. Thus, if your response to rejection is stress, anger, anxiety and other emotions that arouse the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight – high alert), then you will experience various painful, physical symptoms.

Levels of rejection
There are different levels of rejection depending on the context. Depending on where you are in your life and what you are already experiencing, rejection will have a greater impact on you. If you’re already depressed, rejection will have a greater impact on you because your brain will be struggling to produce Endogenous Opioids to lessen the pain.

When you experience physical pain your brain actually produces chemicals to try to lessen the impact of the pain. It does the same thing with social rejection. But if you’re already depressed, your brain is struggling to do produce Endogenous Opioids, so rejection is going to have an even greater impact on you i.e. more pain.

Contextual Rejection
The rejection you feel at work will be different than the kind of rejection you feel in a romantic relationship or the rejection you feel by a parent. However, all the above are forms of rejection, and a rejection today at work can also trigger unresolved issues regarding rejection you might have experienced as a child or in a past relationship. Thus, not all rejection is equal, but all rejection, I believe, is connected: when we experience rejection, we then also make certain conclusions about ourselves.

A person who experiences rejection might feel humiliated, stupid, unwanted, unloved, inferior, not good enough; they might even experience shame. There’s a significant difference between guilt and shame: Guilt is, ‘I did something bad’; shame is, ‘I believe I am innately bad.’

We often tend to blame ourselves and think that there is something wrong with us when we experience rejection. And I believe that to be the core issue that everyone has: The belief, the subconscious, sometimes hidden belief, ‘I’m not good enough…there’s something wrong with me…I don’t belong…I’m an outsider…I’m unlovable.’

The link between your personality, self-image and rejection
The impact of the rejection isn’t going to simply depend on the type of rejection, it’s also going to be dependent on the person – your self-image, where you are in your life and what you’re already experiencing such as emotional pain, loneliness, depression or low self-worth.

Further, do your friends or peers see you as being a particularly sensitive person?

Particularly sensitive refers to being prone to emotional outbursts, reacting harshly to criticism (due to insecurity or perfectionism), aggressive (due to high expectations of other people or possessing a victim mentality), already suffering from feelings of low self-worth, a poor self-image/identity, or emotionally or mentally overwhelmed which, then, make you more sensitive/reactionary to rejection.

Also, if you’ve experienced rejection multiple times, rather than becoming numb to them or becoming immune to them, each new rejection can exacerbate the psychological and physical pain of rejection because it can reinforce the existing subconscious belief of not being good enough or worthy. And if you have unresolved issues with loneliness or rejection, then present-day rejection will have a greater and more painful impact.

If you need help to overcome rejection, a breakup, trauma, or the past, book a one-on-one session with me.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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