Waiting for today...: A Prelude to Aloneness

Friday, June 27

A Prelude to Aloneness

re·ject  [v. ri-jekt; n. ree-jekt]

verb (used with object)
1. to refuse to have, take, recognize, etc.: to reject the offer of a better job.
2. to refuse to grant (a request, demand, etc.).
3. to refuse to accept (someone or something); rebuff: The other children rejected him. The publisher rejected the author's latest novel.
4. to discard as useless or unsatisfactory: The mind rejects painful memories.
5. to cast out or eject; vomit.

One of the first breakthroughs I had after beginning therapy was my recognition of  the role that rejection has played in my depression.  Naturally it would be a good starting point; my “square one”.  The word “rejection” has its roots in the Latin language meaning “thrown back”.  When a person is rejected, they tend to not only come to a standstill but they feel "thrown back" or turned away from the direction in which they were going.  Being on the receiving end of consistent social rejection in earlier years, I am all too familiar with its abrasive and condemning messages of non-acceptance.   In researching this topic, not only have my feelings been validated but I’ve also found optimism that I can heal from the damage that has been done.   

Humans are sensitive to rejection...

Humans are social creatures.  Our need for positive and long lasting relationships are as important as our need for food and water.  Anthropology teaches us that humans are hardwired to fear rejection.  For example, ancient civilizations depended on one another for food, shelter and protection.  They knew that without the group, their chances of survival were minimal.   With today’s modern conveniences, a person can survive on their lonesome.  But, chances are that existence is not a happy one.  

Rejection hurts!

Several studies, including one conducted by a ULCA-led team of psychologists found that certain areas of the brain respond to the pain of rejection in the same way as to physical pain.   In another study, scientists found significant activity in the parasympathetic nervous system in response to social rejection.  The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body at rest, whereas the sympathetic nervous system is active during “fight or flight”.   In this study, the heart rates of the participants slowed in response to and in anticipation of rejection.  In some instances, heart rates took longer to return to baseline.  The results of these studies deduce that our bodies can shut down, not only in response to  physical pain, but also to social pain.  

Rejection brings with it “learned helplessness”…

After facing rejection some may become overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness which then gives way to helplessness.  This reaction is similar to that found in a series of experiments  involving canines.   These canines previously learned that nothing they did prevented them from being shocked and when placed in a new environment where they could easily escape the shocks, they instead laid helplessly and whined.  When rejected, some feel as though nothing they do will bring about any desired effect.   In response to this, they often stop trying.  This phenomenon is termed learned helplessness by the scientific community.  This helplessness is also learned vicariously through the misfortunes of others.

Rejection has the potential to leave long lasting effects and is just one among many negative things that happens during the course of life.  As I explore particularly painful experiences of rejection, I am first facing my fears and no longer taking the blame as the reason for the insults.  Secondly, I am also acknowledging how my responses to rejection has helped keep me afflicted.         

University Of California - Los Angeles. (2003, October 10). Rejection Really Hurts, UCLA Psychologists Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4th, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031010074045.htm

Weir, K. (2012, April). The Pain of Social Rejection.  Monitor on Psychology.  Retrieved March 6th, 2014 from www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/rejection.aspx

Arene, C. (n.d.). The Most Important Step to Overcoming Rejection. Originally retrieved March 6th, 2014 from http://www.4therapy.com/life-topics/family-relationships/divorce/most-important-step-overcoming-rejection-2661.  Can now be found at http://coachingparalalibertad.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-most-important-step-to-overcoming.html  

Durayappah, A. (December 16th, 2010). Rejection: A Loser’s Guide [Web log post].  Retrieved March 4th, 2014 from www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thriving101/201012/rejection-losers-guide