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Why Rejection Hurts So Deeply – Heartache, Humiliation & Shame

Why Rejection Hurts So Deeply – Heartache, Humiliation & Shame
Why Rejection Hurts So Deeply – Heartache, Humiliation & Shame

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 4 reasons rejection hurts so deeply and its link to biological heartache, shame, humiliation & isolation.

First a quick update:

“The power you have over other people
How many people can you influence? What power do you have over other people? What can you influence them to do or feel? We truly underestimate the power that we have to influence the people around us – our romantic partner, family, children, colleagues, workers, friends and even strangers.

“How to deal with bullying”
Undefeated MMA fighter and former WWE Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder experienced bullying as a child. Now he has dedicated his next career to empowering children and neutralizing the root cause of bullying. Watch the video

Now, let’s talk about the 4 reasons rejection hurts so deeply and its link to biological heartache, shame, humiliation & isolation.

Anyone who has ever experienced rejection might describe the pain as awful, overwhelming, intolerable, debilitating, crippling, and so forth. The person feeling rejected might also describe rejection as physical pain, such as heartache, gut wrenching, nauseating, and so forth.

The pain of rejection feels very real. And as I explain in an article on the link between loss and physical pain, studies reveal that social rejection is equivalent to physical pain because the brain processes it in the same way that it processes physical pain.

In another study, conducted by the University of Michigan Medical School, it has been revealed that the brain uses a similar reaction to ease the pain of social rejection as it does to deal with pain caused by physical injury.

When the body experiences physical pain, the brain acts to ease physical pain and other stressors by releasing natural painkilling opioids into the space between brain cells, which “dampens” pain signals.

The study found that following social rejection, the brain followed the same process as it does in its response to physical pain – it releases natural pain-killing endogenous opioids in the brain! And it was found that people who were already depressed tended to release less pain-killing opioids, which, means that the emotional recovery from rejection and other negative social interactions will take longer in these people that are already depressed.

Here are the 4 reasons rejection hurts so deeply and its link to biological heartache, shame, humiliation & isolation:

1. Physical Pain
So the first reason that rejection hurts so deeply is because the brain processes it as physical pain.

“Stress cardiomyopathy, also referred to as the ‘broken heart syndrome,’ is a condition in which intense emotional or physical stress can cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy). This condition can occur following a variety of emotional stressors such as grief (e.g. death of a loved one), fear, extreme anger, and surprise.” -John Hopkins Medicine

2. Traumatic Experience
The second reason that rejection hurts so deeply is because rejection can be a traumatic experience dependent on the specifics of the rejection and the sensitivity and emotional/psychological state of the person undergoing the social rejection.

“During a particularly stressful experience, the anterior cingulate cortex may respond by increasing the activity of the Vagus Nerve – the nerve that starts in the brain stem and connects to the neck, chest and abdomen. When the Vagus Nerve is overstimulated, it can cause pain and nausea.”
Robert Emery and Jim Coan, professors of psychology at the University of Virginia 

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3. Reliving Rejection
The second reason that rejection hurts so deeply is because rejection can easily be relived and re-experienced – and quite vividly.

I experienced many accidents as a child and teenager, some of which resulted in hospital visits and emergency treatment. However, those physically painful experiences are not relived as easily as the experiences of rejection. When thinking back to the physical pain and accidents, I recall some of them but I do not relive the pain in this moment. However, the recollection of experiences of rejection, instantly bring up physical pain in the body in the present moment, including all of the emotional pain.

Again, the explanation for reliving the rejection might be due to the processing of the rejection as a highly traumatic event, and a trauma that lasted longer than the trauma experienced by a physical accident. Note that when we experience social rejection (real or perceived) the pain can last a long time because we continue to feed, nurture, nourish, reinforce and keep the rejection alive with our thoughts and via the constant reliving of it.

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” –Zig Ziglar

4. Rejection Triggers Other Painful Emotions
Recently, at a training workshop I was presenting for a corporation, I revealed that our primary emotional need is love & connection; good relationships are the key to health and happiness. Another key emotional need is significance; we all want to feel needed and feel important to others – it also reinforces good relationships – love & affection.

Thus, when we experience rejection, we are being cut off; we are being isolated from our social tribe or specifically from a partner, friend or colleague who we deemed to be important to our identity and sense of self. When we experience rejection, we lose our significance.

Accordingly, rejection triggers other painful emotions such as isolation, disconnection and loss of significance – unworthiness.

The rejection can also trigger other painful emotions such as shame and humiliation according to the type of rejection we experience, the context and the way in which it is expressed. For example, if a person cheats on his/her spouse, the perceived rejection and betrayal can trigger feelings of humiliation when others learn about the betrayal or it can lead to shame if the person who is being rejected blames him or herself and concludes ‘there is something wrong with me.’

We need relationships and connections, and therefore it is not possible to completely avoid rejection; there will always be someone whom, for his/her reasons and/or issues will engage in rejection of the other person. The only way to soften the pain of rejection is to carefully choose and surround oneself with people whose values, morals and dreams match or complement yours, and, be willing to learn from the experience.

“To avoid all kinds of rejection, stop chasing your dreams, never state your opinion, don’t stand up for what you believe in, hide your true feelings, never pursue your passions, lock yourself in a room, and never speak to anyone, ever again. It’s the only way. Sure, your life will be frustrating, painful, unfulfilling, unrewarding, lonely, boring, and unsatisfying, but at least you’ll never have to risk being rejected.” –Leigh LoGun

If you need help to overcome a rejection or betrayal, 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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