Health Warning: Social Rejection Doesn’t Only Hurt, It Kills

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From Aeon: “According to [psychologist Naomi] Eisenberger, the significance of social pain goes back to evolution. Throughout history, we depended on other people for survival: they nurtured us, helped to gather food and provide protection against predators and enemy tribes. Social relationships literally kept us alive. Perhaps, then, just like physical pain, the pain of rejection evolved as a signal of threat to our lives. And perhaps nature, taking a clever shortcut, simply ‘borrowed’ the existing mechanism for physical pain instead of creating a new one from scratch, which is how broken bones and broken hearts ended up so intimately interconnected in our brains.

In one study, [social scientist Roy] Baumeister asked participants to write about a major blow to their self-worth and describe their immediate reaction . . . compared with minor incidents, the aftermath of major threats provoked significantly different responses in the subjects. They were more likely to become disoriented and paralysed, as well as lose their ability to think straight and make decisions. They felt removed from their bodies, as if looking at things from a distance. The world appeared to them unfamiliar and strange . . .

However fleeting, such moments of shock, of utter unguardedness, reveal something about rejection and belonging that normally remains hidden. We are more than social animals. We don’t just live with others but also through them and in them. They place us and ground us into the world. When they see us, they identify us. After all, what is identity but the slow, lifelong accretion of gazes: us looking at ourselves being looked at by others? What we see is, largely, what they see, or what we think they see. And when they turn away, when we become unseen, in a way we cease to be . . .

The harm goes beyond emotions. A growing number of researchers now recognise that threats to our social identity, such as being negatively evaluated by others, can tamper with crucial neurobiological systems. Studies of animals in subordinate rank and people exposed to negative evaluation . . . suggest that social rejection triggers inflammation – the body’s innate response to injury. Just as with physical threats, social ones can signal mortal danger, setting off a defensive immune attack against microbial intruders. While the process helps to fight infection, according to George Slavich, director of the UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research, in cases of social rejection the effect can get out of hand, spiking inflammation to dangerous levels. Chronic inflammation, in turn, has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, depression and others. Fuelled by the social rejection that pervades low status, it can also help to explain that elusive link between poor health and social inequalities.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. What about negative social contact; or being part of a group that a person doesn’t want to be in; or having lower social status in a group or tribe; or having higher status in insincere relationships; or being in desperately co dependant relationships.

  2. “Studies of animals in subordinate rank and people exposed to negative evaluation . . . suggest that social rejection triggers inflammation – the body’s innate response to injury … in cases of social rejection the effect can get out of hand, spiking inflammation to dangerous levels.”

    What is the goal, when one defames another person with make believe, “lifelong, incurable, genetic,” stigmatizing, “invalid,” and “unreliable” DSM disorders?

    Isn’t the goal, of behaving in such a deplorable manner to another human being, to take away all hope and declare that person to be a social reject? So you may have a client for life? Think twice, worshippers of the debunked DSM.

  3. Well. Society which collaborates with psychiatry is useless form of egoic nation. No future, no past. Just technology money and nothing more. Where economy is the main power, psychiatry is a king and human being means nothing. Ivan Illich, Szasz writes about the sad fact that there is no escape from society, from ruthless norms, only through suicide.
    So when , economy is enough for you, and you are a great member of apollonic tribe. World is yours. And you have psychiatry to kill your enemies. A great institution for killing real people.
    For me, normal people are privileged people and they are those who never fight against biological psychiatry to defend others, because they are actually using psychiatry against the others…. They do not want to read Szasz, Hillman or listen to victims of the psychiatry. So.

    They have already chosen their side.

    I do not think that victims of the psychiatric dehumanization would like to socialize with their almost killers.They are like Frodo. They have enough, they are tired. So f. tired.

  4. “We don’t just live with others but also through them and in them. They place us and ground us into the world. When they see us, they identify us. After all, what is identity but the slow, lifelong accretion of gazes: us looking at ourselves being looked at by others? What we see is, largely, what they see, or what we think they see. And when they turn away, when we become unseen, in a way we cease to be . . .”

    This is a stunning paragraph and I could not disagree more. Us vs. them all over the place. How many times is this division stated outright here? It’s as if an individual has no power unto themselves. This is as about enmeshed co-dependent programming as it can get, as far as believing from where we get our power, grounding, and sense of self. From others?? I think not.

    We live our own lives, not those of others. Life responds to us neutrally and mirrors us honestly, whereas people tend to manipulate and control for their own agenda or sense of power. There is integrity in the world, here and there, but right now I find that hard to come by. Hopefully that will change soon and we’ll see more and more integrity in leadership. For the time being, seems we’re on our own for a while, during this transitional period where people are finally waking up.

    But overall, if we are stuck with needing approval from others in order to BE, then we are rendering ourselves completely powerless. That is not only absurd, but that belief can also lead people into dark places fast and cause undue suffering, just from the cruelty of others. Indeed, people shouldn’t be cruel, but some are, it’s a fact of life, and many are in positions of power where they totally exploit this false belief for the purpose of control. I think it’s common, and one cause of our current chronic unrest.

    We don’t have to be powerless to that, or to sink to that level of high stress and fear. One can disengage from that system altogether, and save themselves from such nonsense such as “you need our approval in order to exist.” Most oppressive and utterly controlling belief I can think of.

    The only approval we need is our own, and when we are self-affirming, regardless of any outside opinion and judgment, then we attract others who resonate with this. That is individuation 101.

    Bullies, abusers and marginalizers–those who “reject” by othering via very cruel, insidious, and damaging social abuse–are the ones living in fear and self-delusion. The rest of us can be free of this if we know our true selves and power. Not this bullshit programming that we “cease to be” if we are disapproved of by our community. That’s actually a position of power, when one can rise above it and keep a strong sense of self and purpose. It can foster change for necessary growth, in the entire community!

    Social rejection comes from fear, and that is on those doing the rejecting, shunning, and marginalizing. These are the folks working “through” and “in” people. It’s called “vampirism,” and it leads to learned helplessness for their “victims.” We can have better boundaries than that, and not allow ANYONE to work or live “through” or “in” any of us, other than ourselves, as it should be. That is entirely freeing.