Rejection – ouch!

Rejection.  In one form or other we’ve all felt it’s sting.  And we use words like “pain” and “hurt” to describe the feeling of being socially spurned for good reason.  A study conducted at the University of Michigan tells us that social rejection and physical pain activate the same areas of the brain.  This might explain the urge to cringe, shrink and hide when we’ve suffered a real or perceived social rejection.

Don’t make an emotional wound an emotional tatoo. Use mindfulness skills to heal and gain perspective

We do react differently to the aftermath these two kinds of injuries, however.  If we are physically burned, we tend to the wound, seek medical attention, or ask for help from a trusted ally so that the wound heals.  We also quickly learn from a physical burn not to touch that hot stove again.

But with an emotional “burn” we sometimes go back to that hot stove over and over again, expecting a different result, or we blame ourselves for the emotional burn.  Instead of tending and healing to a social burn we often rub salt in the wound by sprinkling shame and self-hatred on top, making the wound grow.  You can change the bad habit of re-wounding yourself after a social slight be applying a little mindfulness.

Try these mindfulness tips to help heal an emotional wound:

1. Don’t make an emotional wound an emotional tattoo. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you didn’t get this promotion or that boyfriend, that you won’t get the next one. Use the mindful attitudes to put perspective on the situation.  Gently learn from your mistakes and move on.

2.  Learn about self-compassion.   Self-compassion is a foreign concept to most of  us, but if you broke your leg you would take it easy for a while.  Why not do the same for a broken heart?  Learn to be gentle with yourself instead of strengthening the shame pathways in the brain.

3.  Do something good for your body.  After a physical blow, you might do some rehab.  Since the same areas in the brain are involved in an emotional blow, emotional rehab may be in order.  Do some “emotional rehab” by taking some gentle exercise.  Go for a long walk, practice mindful breathing, or give  yin yoga a try.

As with all mind stuff we can chose our mental response to rejection.  Over time mindfully responding to rejection in a productive way will change your habitual responses to disappointment, minimizing the sting of rejection.

Struggling with difficult desires? Check out our printable worksheet on pulling, pushing, and positive emotion. Let us know how this works for you.

Read more about the neural connections between physical and social pain

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!


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1 Comment

  • Brilliantly worded Donna: “Don’t make an emotional wound an emotional tattoo”. Love it! Great mindfulness ideas to help recover from painful feelings like shame and other perpetrators of deflated self-worth.

    Adam Szmerling

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