They say that rejection can feel like a slap in the face, but according to a study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, rejection really does has a more physical component than people may realize. Researchers first latched onto the theory when they noticed just how similar the brainwaves of people who were rejected were compared to those who felt physical pain.
In reality, physical pain and social pain are processed in some of the same parts of the brain. When you feel a headache coming on, for example, your brain also tries to figure out how emotionally distressing that headache is. It is in this region that physical pain overlaps with social pain.
Furthermore, people who are more sensitive to physical pain are also more sensitive to emotional pain. In an experiment where participants played catch with two computerized players who refused to share the ball, researchers learned that people felt more rejected after a seclusion task. When they took Tylenol for three weeks, results revealed that they also felt less emotional pain than those who took a placebo. What is usually the remedy for physical pain appears to have some effect on social pain as well.
Still, this does not mean that you should start taking pills for your emotional distress. Although seemingly negative, feelings of rejection may have their own benefits. According to researchers, it helps us feel connected and allows us to learn to adjust certain behaviors that may continue to alienate us in the long run.
For more on pain, check these out on FN:
- Your Good Intentions Can Ease Others' Painful Experiences
- Listening to Music Can Distract You from Feeling Pain
- Hurt Yourself? Swearing May Help Alleviate Pain
(Photo by The Raggedy-man via Flickr Creative Commons)