There are many times when we may feel legitimate mental pain: a divorce, a conviction, rejection and more. But it’s not just extremely life-changing events that can bring us down. In the modern world, even off-the-cuff comments on social media or encountering one rude person in your day can have a negative effect on your mental health. That can be traced back to evolutionary times, when being ostracised from the group would have major implications for our survival.
What goes on in the brain when we are rejected or encounter someone rude? A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has an interesting answer that lends credence to the phrase “rejection hurts.” In the study, they analyzed what happened in the brains of 40 volunteers who had been abandoned by their parents. The MRI scanner showed that the same region of the brain is activated when someone is rejected as is activated when someone feels physical pain. “The results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts'”, the study states.
As for how to deal with rejection, one may speculate that if it has a similar effect to physical pain, then perhaps it can be treated similarly to physical pain. But there are other methods. According to Guy Winch, a protagonist of TED talks, one should not take it too hard on themselves if they are rejected. It is better to instead give yourself some sensible self-criticism and reflect on what you might want to do if the situation repeats itself.