Handling rejection: New study sheds light on why it hurts

Dec 09, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Rejection is one of those universal experiences we can all relate to. Whether it's family or social, through business or a romantic rejection, that feeling of exclusion, or a lack of acceptance, is something we all dread.

Even though rejection in one form or another is a part of everyday life, the experience can be devastating and can have serious psychological consequences such as loneliness, reduced self-esteem, aggression and depression.

Now, a study done by Macquarie University psychology PhD candidate, Jonathan Gerber, into the behavioural effects of rejection sheds new light on precisely what it is about rejection that makes us feel so bad.

Gerber analysed 88 existing experimental rejection research studies. He found that while rejection moderately lowers mood and self-esteem, the loss of control felt by the person who has been rejected was found to be a major factor contributing further to their hurt and distress.

Rejection makes us realise that we are not as powerful and in control as we would like to be, Gerber says. As a result, one of the first things most people do when rejected is to look for opportunities to regain that lost sense of control.

"In a sense, rejection is another way of saying 'no', so when rejection is perceived, it is experienced as a barrier, an obstacle to be overcome," Gerber said.

"When the opportunity to regain control is present, people will tend to take this option, even if it means losing an opportunity to regain belonging."

He notes that attempts to regain control could also include a range of anti-social behaviours, such as increased aggression, harassment or even stalking - even though such behaviours would not serve to promote re-inclusion or lead to the restoration of a relationship, and would in fact work against it.

Given his findings, Gerber says that one way to help somebody who has been devastated by rejection is to highlight alternative ways for them to regain power that do not involve anti-social responses.

"We need to be mindful of avoiding putting rejected people into situations where the only way they can restore control is by being anti-social. Many of the anti-social reactions to rejection could be avoided if we could find ways of restoring control that also helped others."

Gerber says seeking ways to gain control over other areas of life can be a useful strategy. Likewise, when rejection occurs, it also helps when the person who is rejected can reframe the situation.

"Salespeople know that a certain amount of phone calls will end in rejection while others will follow through to sales, so it might be useful to realise that although rejection may have happened this time, it won't always happen," he says.

Provided by Macquarie University

Explore further: Culture influences incidence of depression

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

8 hours ago

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

8 hours ago

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

8 hours ago

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

8 hours ago

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.