Rejection Hurts.

I've been reading some research work on the mental and physical reactions to various forms of social rejection (of course, with the normal caveats of avoiding correlation equals causation etc). For anyone who's interested in the science, I can post references.
I believe this is relevant to readers of ILIASM.

People describe rejection as being heart-broken, wounded, stabbed in the back, and Tibetans apparently refer to it as being "hit in the heart" - which strangely was the exact phrase I used to my W to describe the impact of her repeated brutal refusals. And in some WTF moments, I was literally unable to breathe, bereft - a very physical reaction. And I've read recently on this forum, posts describing it like being "knifed in the heart".

And, as I've posted, I would cheerfully treat those who parrot "a refusal is not a rejection" to a nice bath in some boiling sulphuric acid. After all, it's only pH.

The experiments have illustrated:

a) A similarity between emotional response to rejection and actual physical pain, in brain responses
b) A link between the somatic response to rejection and physical pain! Giving people paracetemol lessened their vulnerability to feelings of rejection
c) People naturally vary in their sensitivity to rejection; teenagers do more, introverts do more. There may be a genetic link. Also a link with kid's early environment, whether this was "safe". Also, loneliness exacerbates, increasing contact with friends decreases.

They refer to the "brain being on the alert in an unrelenting way" - there are many examples here of that continuing stress.

I think these results are powerful and suggestive. For one thing, I encourage you all to take seriously that ongoing structural rejection (particularly by your nominal lover) is actually and physically harmful. You are allowing harm to come to you, the pain is a signal to change the environment. It has the potential to damage your health. A feeling of being accepted and safe in a social context is one of the most important factors in our wellbeing.

Second, as well as the "obvious" thing of networking and increasing your own support circle outside the refuser, they found an interesting thing that rejection was lessened if you GIVE support to others. So participating in helping others, volunteering etc, can help you.

I'm also an advocate (if not a very good example) of the benefits of exercise - I think the natural opioids are probably pretty good for us.

I would NOT recommend taking paracetemol to deaden the pain, quite apart from the health risks, I believe painful feelings are there for a very good reason.
hl42 hl42
51-55, M
28 Responses Dec 17, 2012

"not feeling emotionally safe" sounds familiar. I find I confide less in him, about anything. It's all pretty much talk about the kids, intellectual discussions, mundane household matters ("I'll make dinner tonight, your grey pants are back from the cleaners, etc.) the occasional joke.

He's slowly becoming like an amiable co-worker to me--someone you work well enough with, even like, but would never pour your heart out to.

Yes, that's what happened, Putfeelingaside, to my husband and I. Finally, I realized that I had no interest in him, and then it was easy to divorce him. He no longer was an important part of my life, just a drain on it.

I'm glad this cycled up again. Seriously - you, bazzar, Apocrypha, Mettamomma, and some of the other people here should collaborate on a book.

Thanks, though not something people would buy. They want to buy false hope.

My refuser always said I should write a book. I don't think he imagined it could be on this subjec,t though.

You could write a book on this topic and dedicate it to him. :-)

Excellent! Perhaps one of those absurdly (and likely ironically) floury dedications to their patron that books used to... "your humble & obedient servant" sounds right. Or EX humble & obedient servant, Viva la SLF!

PS, you are aware of course that WP has already done the book....?

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Being rejected sucks

This I'm sure should help some ppl that post to this group. ;0)

Love it. The part: "A feeling of being accepted and safe in a social context is one of the most important factors in our wellbeing." is why I joined this group.
btw there has been recent evidence that the same chemical released in physical trauma is also released in emotional trauma.

Ah, but you are supporting your own well-being (not to mention ours) just by being here and by sharing your research. Well done. And I was just reaching for my paracetemol this morning. Good thing you warned me against it. Your analysis paragraph (c) is most true.... getting out and about with other people is a distraction which lessens the stress hormone levels - and if done in the right company can increase testosterone release!

Go for it!

To answer one of your questions my wife ended our sexual relations six years ago.

Thanks for the update - I had a look at your description of one of your hiking trips, sounded great "fun" - care in the community at your risk?! I've done a swag trip in the MacDonalds, but that was pretty tame as we had a vehicle pretty close & satellite phone available...

It sounds fairly unilateral behavior from your wife. Would it be useful at all for you to post your story, or are you not seeking feedback?

If you read more here, you might spot I'm not a great fan of the sexual addiction label - I guess it depends how useful a metaphor it is for you, and that you are able to resist the limitations implied.

So did mine just said I don't want sex anymore & don't touch me.

In my marriage it was the only way for many years to get my husband to be responsive to the needs of lessor seniority people, it allowed other people the time they needed for themselves, their children, and the community, Everything he wanted to do like have a vacation at some other time other than between January the first to February 15, to holidays off, weekends off, go to a better job with his seniority, or even take the shift he wanted, I would be begged by his father, his fathers friends and his coworkers to get him to back off, in 2001 things got really bad after he had a brain surgery in August. I would go to him and say if one day you want sex you will have to keep cooperating with people, I would repeat something I heard his mother say the first day he was home from the military, I used variatiions of this, Its just your first day back, lets not have any fights between you and your father. Just please do as he asks and go back to work, after all there is always tomorrow. that was 1985, the next sixteen years I had to get him to back down many times using this model, I was the reward at the end, then he decided I was not reward enough, he felt he had earned it in more ways than one, and he decided he had given to much trying for it. As a woman this hurt when he told me to please drop dead so he would be free to aquire a new wife. then started taking his rights in the community. , People not used to him pressing his rights both in the community and at work stated getting badly hurt when they forced him to back away from the things they wanted him not to do, after a morning he destroyed four men on our front porch I became totally terrified of my husband firearms started to be used to intimidate my husband into not taking holidays and vacations, and more than a few weekends off, his father said if he had just backed down that morning it would not have been neccesary to punish him like this, but he had to learn he was in a place in society he had no say in what happened in his life, then the MRSA in his spine, things have turned into a hell, two weeks after he came home from rehab he caught me first in an affair, He completely ruined the man I had been seeing in every way he could, physically he broke him up, when he went home to his wife she did not even give him a chance, she used a softball bat on his still broken face and threw him divorce papers, his company after the found out about our affair, started a business audit on his spending reports when he went on business trips and he was fired.
My husband did not escape unscathed, he was put into a stress center for anger management after the various incidents such as hitting his father in the face with a stainless steel bed pan, the four badly hurt men on our front porch, the coworker that got mad at my husband because my husband turned his back on him after the other man told him he was going to take his shift, that man suffered a broken back after my husband tried t wrap him around a light pole, everyone felt things were becoming no cooperation from my husband everyone became more than scared of his wanting what he considered his rights, When he was sent home the timing was horrible, he walked into the house finding me just finishing getting ready to go to a political fund raiser with his fathers best friend, Until recently I never understood my husband utter hate for this man and any one associated with him, but this night it was my turn to understand what he was and was not going to accept any longer, I explained I would be home by 10 that evening, that it was a favor and promise I made his father, my husband said well its their turn to get used to broken promises, he told me I owed him 31 years of marriage promises, and that evening he was the only one that counted, that I was going to live up to what I promised or get out the door that second, I decided that negotiation was what was needed, I said I realize we have not really treated you right all these years, I said but you have to understand if you had been allowed to have your life the way you wanted other people would have been putout by your wants so this was your fathers idea to control you, he said tell him something he didn't know, I said I will tell you what, pick a place to meet, your fathers friend will bring me, I will call your mother and father and we will get everything on the table, your grievances and how we can slowly let you have what you want in life. , He said to hell with slowly, he read off all the things he had supplied in my life the last 31 years, and received nothing in return, he said he was taking the down payment on what I owed that night, He raped me begging him please not like this, when his fathers friend arrived he was shocked when my husband answered the door, I was sitting on the edge of the bed crying dress in a dressing gown, when my husband said I could not come to the door I was indisposed, his fathers friend said he was coming in to hear what I had to say, like I said my husband had always despised this man and several of his fathers other friends, he said you go get a badge and warrant, because I am refusing entrance, his fathers friend said I work in the mayors office, I can enter any home I wish in the city, My husband said not mine, The man thought that forcing his way past my husband because he used a cane would work, My husband treated him like a cat, grabbed him by the neck and threw him about fifteen feet over the porch rail into the drive saying you are leaving now, I heard some tires screech when I looked out the window my husbands mother was coming up the stairs, his crying father was helping his friend into the car, he had hit in the drive face first, and I had to tell my husbands mother just how bad her son had been abused over the last three decades, the day after tomorrow we board a plane to go on a cruise for the tri yearly vacation, I was invited my husband was not, he forced his way on board by refusing a loan to his fathers friend change my berth to a double with him.
One last attempt was made to get my husband not to come this time, we have offered to allow him to chose the next time, we have offered other things if he would stay home, we tried yesterday to get him to give up our double stateroom to the son and future daughter in law of another woman going on the cruise, a classmate from his high school her 26 year old and his 22 year old bride found out the time they wanted to get married was a time he could not get off in June, he was bumped out by higher seniority where he works, so the best time she could get her family and friends together was a wedding in Florida on spring break then this cruise for a honey moon and reception, My husbands father called and said you have to give up your berth, its only the right thing to do for these kids, he said I would be getting my original single berth back if my husband would just agree to give up his reservation, This is what really made me sad!
My husband said what is the upside for me, he said stay home and watch my wife fly away for another vacation I wont have just like the previous 32 years. his father said yes its the nice thing to do, my husband refused, said there is no up side for me, I am not the nice guy any more if you had not noticed. his father said remember how you felt the day you married 33 years ago, the joy you felt, my husband said only to have it crushed that night when you told the Shore patrol where to find me and I was on a submarine out of Kings Bay the at 5 AM the next morning, and I have only had a life this last year, even with your interference, the woman got on and said if this is the way we made you feel the last fourty years we are sorry for you, you are mean, you have no humanity, you just will never get anything you want I hope, And she let his father say something. He said you were not invited its only right you give up.
Then my husband said ok I give up my and my wife's berth, but I want the money for what I paid by wire tomorrow, I will turn our tickets for the fight in for a future flight, I got on and said I will see you at the terminal when again my husband spoke up. He said you were not listening I said all moneys, I was not going, I was going where he was going.
I guess I started crying, I said we would let him pick the next time in three years. My husband said he was not going to wait three more years for his turn. said his money, and he was not going to let himself be shoved back for the thirty sixth year, to be told then that I have to wait until the 39th year, Our friend needing my husband to understand just started sobbing, said she feels that my husbands heart is now stone. My husband said on of the other couples could be asked to give theirs up. His father just sat there and apologized he raised a jerk for a son, he said I had hoped he would show he was a man.
My husband said yes a man that has not had a honeymoon because his father destroyed that hope when he told the SPs where to find him, who every year after his return home either took a vacation when it was driving at a time of ice, or not at all. who had shotguns pointed at him for nine years to make life for every one else while being denied one for him self, now you want to deny me more life, He told his father to ask one of the other couples to stay behind and see how fast he as put in his place. He hung up mad, has not called back yet.
I wish this war between his father, his fathers friends would just stop. I have not said anything about what would be right and wrong in this, when my husband started his revolt, it came as a total shock to everyone, they just wanted things to continue as they were even me, Now I have a 15 month old son from the night my husband would not negotiate his rights any more, he has backhanded his own father and every time he is asked just to slow things down somebody has to give up something to do it. I wanted to go on a nice warm spring vacation, meet new people go explore Mayan ruins see the Carabean, but if I go my husband also goes, right now the only option that's left is me saying you win, pick your destination and I go with you, not with the family and my friends, and cancel both of us out.
My husband says this is an acceptable solution, his father says he is dictating everything now. He says I wonder how it came to this, I said a whipping when he was a senior was the beginning point seven years before I met my husband his father and his friends felt my husband needed to learn a lesson in respect and sportsmanship. when I first saw my husband on the beach with no shirt I noticed a series of scars on his back, I had asked what caused them and he said it happened while he was in the Army and left it at that, His mother and me found out that the scares were from his father and his friends had tied him to a tree cut his shirt off and whipped him with extention cords until he passed out. there were cuts that extended down to the rib cage and spine. They required 153 stitches, I guess my husband wont forgive any body any thing now.

I sympathize with you..... but I think your posting should be in a different category. It would seem you and everyone around your husband is suffering abuse. If your husband is so out of control you and your family really need to bring him to psychiatric help. If he refuses, then the police will help you. Do you know a police person or a social worker you can talk with?

He has been under psychiatric help for two years now, we know the diagnosis is sever depression and PTSD, but we were also told we should all be put in prison for what we did to him for 28 years before MRSA set into his spine, the doctors say he was nothing more than a slave with our manipulations of his job, his sex life, of hi time, and his rights, using connections in the county government so every time he would try and gain his rights a sheriffs deputy would show up and tell him he could either go to work or be put in jail for creating a public nusance . From June 1st 1985 to October 24 2009, he had a total of six days off work, no holidays ever were allowed, from November 2001 to the time Oct 24 2009 he was usually escorted to work on the holidays and when he tried to take a vacation at a time other than mid January by four men holding shotguns on him because they felt he was to dangerouse to be allowed his way,
I know what was done was total abuse but there were social and political as well as corporate problems this was the easiest way to solve them. Even then people were desperately hurt, my husband if he got an opening like the last thanksgiving before he retired, this was 2008, one of the men holding a shotgun on him lost his attention for a second, his wife and everyone else was waiting until the next morning for the neuro surgon to come out and say weather the man was going to live or not after my husband yanked the weapon out of his hands and smashed the whole front of his face and scull in with the butt then he chambered a round and was going to unload on his father and two other men, serveral security officers and a deputy begged my husband just to go to work and cool off now he ruined the holiday, he did after he collected the other weapons and smashed them so bad they could not be repaired cost 6000.00 to replace them and my husband refused to repay them for the broken up weapons.
As for me My husband called a holt to 31 years of a sexless marriage by forcing me into sex me begging please not like this after he ripped my dress off, It was not I did not like sex it was that so much counted on his cooperation, now we don't have any cooperation from him, traditions, peoples needs take the back seat to his wants, there are no negotiations he will not say no to, no compromise, no agreeing, his doctors at the VA say we created this monster we will have to live with it by the rules he sets now.
Any time we suggest slowing things he says why.

Now, I have a hard time believing a doctor would say that to you without first calling the police to report the abuse you inflicted. I'm beginning to form a different opinion of your post..... Please go 'trolling' elsewhere.

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Thank you for referring me to was helpful.


Have been hiking / camping for a week so no response possible by myself until now.

I take your point about vocabulary. I should have thanked you for introducing me to a new word. It was remiss of me not to do so before.

I am unaware on the "Aven" reference. Shall google it. Thank you again for your willingness to share.

My interest stems from a sexual addiction that I suffer from. Working with some counsellors in this field, attending support groups ( eg SA, SLAA, SAA, AA, Al Anon, CoDA ) has led to learning tools to interrupt the obsessive thinking and halt compulsive behaviours. As well I sponsor ( mentor other men here in Australia ) who suffer from this affliction.


Why not just say "excessive wordiness" ?

It seems I can't win here: either I'm concise and use one word which may be understood by some, or else I use 2 and then can be accused of being wordy.

The real reason for using prolixity is threefold: one, I think it provides some amusement or levity, two, I enjoy using the English language even though my writing isn't ideal (I do try), and third, it was a possibly not very worthy way of saying pvss off.

I'll use the words I want thank you, I do think about what I say (which is more than some appear to), I don't type on some rubbishy tablet or phone and expect people to read what I say. And the pay's not good.

You're not windy, hl...many people are not used to scholarly writing (or they don't like it or understand it). Plus, if they read carefully, they will see the wittiness behind your remarks. You keep on being hl, K??

Thanks MR, nice to hear from you, it's good to have your breath of sanity. I guess people are wrapped up in themselves to the extent they can't see the context - and perhaps that's a component of their problem?

Agree with MR. There is a reverse snobbery about people who quibble with words they don't know. The beauty of language is that there ARE words for every condition, feeling, idea, thought, belief, state, postulation, etc. etc! And using the CORRECT word helps to clarify meaning. If someone is too lazy (especially in these days of the Net) to look up a word, then they are hardly likely to put any energy into understanding the post!!!

BTW I didn't know the word either!!

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"Prolixity" ..........?

I have met people in 12 step groups who have revealed "sexual anorexia" issues.

If this exists ( we seem to accept that food anorexia is a condition ) then there may be a percentage of the population who suffer from this disorder.

I have sought to enquire diplomatically ( hoping I was empathetic ) of a source of the condition from the people I have met who assert they are sexually anorexic. It's my understanding that sexual abuse as a child can be a factor.

I take it you're aware of the Aven site which covers various forms of asexuality.

What is your interest in this area?

PS, why the presumption that there has to be a cause? I've heard descriptions from people who have never had any strong sexual feelings and were not abused. They feel that's the way they are made and do not like feeling broken for who they are (which is potentially the subtext of the causation argument, for example, the abuse "reason" still implies they're damaged due to another's fault). And in the cases I describe, that's simply not true.

You could have said this in a more concise form and achieved the same results.

Well, people have different preferences for how they consume information. Some find examples or more discursive descriptions more valuable. So whereas I might have been more concise and have it benefit you, that's not true for others. If you find my prolixity tiresome, you know what to do.

What a terrific post,very interesting and thought provoking.

There is a great way to combat rejection and anger, I call it "protect your soul". It is hard when your spouse is non responsive (we are all there) but you can adjust your expectation and protect your soul. I also think twice before making any conversation with anybody, whether it is the bill collector or the clark at the register or my spouse. What I learned, it makes a big difference how you approach a situation, even if someone is mean to you, you have the power to turn it around. Winning in an argument is not worth hurting your soul. At the end of the day If I am not thinking about something negative I won. Good luck and God Bless you all.

Although I've removed myself from the bedroom, I live with an ongoing sense of rejection. He doesn't care enough to make an effort. He'd rather see me live in misery (and live in misery himself, I guess) than make an effort. This still stings.

I'm very sorry Elk. I loved your dark humor in the forum about giving him a bad sexual experience - wanting some....

This is so interesting to me as my husband of 29 years 364 days continues to push me away as he discovers his creativity with a soprano, his "best friend". The physical sensations I have of a splitting hot wet feeling at the center of my chest are like a knife might feel. When I practice breathing and non-reactivity, he gets "nice". Makes sense, for him to keep his power, I need to want his attention. I am coping with profound rejection while trying my best to keep my head up.

Good post

I love your post. I remember that breathelessness and the pain. Its why I usually start a lot of my comments here with 'Breathe'. We have to breathe through it so we can see and feel clearly.

This is VERY informative. I'm an introvert, and a seventeen year old. Typically, I feel rejected even BEFORE I can be rejected! Ah, I am the origin of my own apathy; I suppose I may have a more sensitive response... The "safe" aspect really does make sense. Thanks so much for posting.

Rejectin made me indepedent and stronger a i have friends who are rejects

Really interesting and nicely written :)

Here is the link for "Getting the Cold Shoulder:"

The bulk of the article talks about how feeling lonely or rejected causes the skin to cool by a measurable amount; how this also changes how we perceive our physical environment; and how the application of warmth to the skin, such as a cup of joe, cause people to be more sociable. (I doubt, however, that turning up the thermostat or feeding our refusers hot soup will make a difference!)

The reference to the study about primary/primal relationships, physical touch, and warmth, is further down in the article.

(Grammar police): ...caused... or ....causes....

Excellent article hl, and very appropriate for our forum. I do thank you for taking the time to research the issue so throughly. I think that instinctively many of us realise the truth of this, but without actually acknowledging it. Seeing it in "black and white" does give it a veracity that our feelings cannot do.

I suffer from some undiagnosed autoimmmune issues which I believe are the result of ongoing stress. Whilst my SM was not the only stress in my life (far from it!) it was certainly the longest lasting. . . .

Your timely reminder about exercise is very valuable too. Note to self" Back to the gym!

I've always hated Platonic dualism (well, since I've known what it is!) - and now listen better to "little" messages. Accepting the SM for so long was doing violence to myself, I now see. Almost certainly the stress involved would result in raised cortisols etc, and the studies specifically referred to increased sensitivity that results from that prolonged (stress) arousal.

Back to the gym before the NY?! Go for it!

First reference of "platonic dualism" I have ever come across. I appreciate knowing it (splitting of body and soul is the most succinct definition I happened upon).

I was blaming my grey hair, today, on my SM. LOL. But perhaps it's a result of rejection.

There is much to embrace (pun intended) by rejecting platonic dualism.

Thank you for enlightening me, HL42.

Hope this works as a number of references for the info in the post.

New Scientist summary (but this requires you to subscribe to get full text)

Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion -(Neuroimaging of social exclusion in online game)

Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain (people recalling recent relationship break-up)

Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain - Behavioral and Neural Evidence

Variation in the μ-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) is associated with dispositional and neural sensitivity to social rejection

Time spent with friends in adolescence relates to less neural sensitivity to later peer rejection

Shared sensitivity to physical pain and social rejection

Neural correlates of giving support to a loved one

Also, a rather more general description of the vital entwinement of the body with emotions and the mind in a popular book.

The Feeling of What Happens
Antonio Demasio

There's also a study by James Coan which shows competely different responses to pain when in a good relationship versus a troubled one.

What a shame that our spouses have not been such a support, instead a cause of pain.

Great post. I can only add information from an article in a recent New York Times, which cites research indicating that our primary relationships--parent/child and spousal--are formed and secured by physical contact. How about that? Scientific proof that debunks the crazy idea that a spousal relationship can be terrific except for physical intimacy; that such an idea is frankly impossible.

can you remember the name of the article so I can google it?

Thanks, I'd love to see that reference too. I guess the problem is that there are those who apparently don't need physical intimacy. But then, the question is, what business do they have getting married (especially to a sex person).

I think that non-sex people get married for reasons of societal expecation and compliance with norms. Many of us here are "nice" people and we ARE appealing. I also think there are many, many people (categorized as non-sex folks, naturally) who believe that sex does and should fade with age and they're relieved when that time comes. For us, it's the beginning of our nightmare.

Wow... i would
love to read the material you
read for this information...
always knew it instinctively
but had not read any recent studies....
thanks, clg

A timely, well-written article. Thank you.