Rejection as Feeling

Psychological pain in humans, especially grief and intense loneliness, may share some of the same neural pathways that elaborate physical pain  – Dr Jaak Panksepp, Bowling Green State University, Ohio

"You cannot FEEL rejected" he said.

"Yes, I can" his partner countered.

"No, you cannot. Rejection is not a feeling. Feelings are things like sad, angry, scared. Rejection is not a feeling" he insisted.

"I disagree" she said.

"Suz, what do you think? Is rejection a feeling?" my friend asked.

"Erm, uh, I don't know I never really thought about it but I have felt it. Ha-ha." I responded.

"I am adamant about this" our male friend continued. "Look it up in any psych book. Rejection is not a feeling. It is in appropriate to say you feel rejected. It is better to say you were rejected and now you feel sad. That is the appropriate expression." adamant friend continued.

"Uh, huh. Can you pass the ketchup?" I asked.

This conversation happened nearly three years ago while I dined with some good friends. I understood my friends point from a purely textbook perspective but I also understand his partners point from an emotional point. I knew what she was suggesting.

Rejection, to me, is felt in my body. I carry it in my body.  I am aware of this rejection feeling constantly. I feel rejected by my daughter. Maybe she hasn't rejected me but that is what it feels like and it goes beyond feeling sad about it emotionally. I carry this physical ache on a daily basis. It doesn't go away. Call it whatever you wish, what word suits your lifestyle or academic degree, but to me, rejection does cause physical pain. Is it residual? Secondary symptom? Perhaps. But I can FEEL it.

I felt it today. I am still feeling it.  A male friend that I had become friendly with, deeply personal with, asked me out for a "date". We hadn't ever met in person although we had spoken many times on the phone, shared many pictures, emails, chat sessions.  Since it seemed we might have mutual interest in meeting (or dating) we did just that.

After the date, I was anxious and wondering what he thought, how he felt, was there chemistry, would this go somewhere. I heard from him today.  In very kind and uber creative words he essentially told me "You are a great gal but you are too fat for me. The relationship wont be going anywhere.".

I could debate his choice of words, the fact that he knew what I looked like before the official "go-see" but I wont.  What I will state is that his rejection of me was FELT in my body. I gasped for air. I felt a bit weepy. My chest tightened. I felt sick.

Is rejection a feeling or does it cause feelings?

Was my body reacting to the rejection or did my mind create all those physical reactions as a result of the rejection? Again, is it a  matter of cause and effect?

According to this article, rejection is felt physically. Individuals that were subjected to rejection scenarios registered activity in their brain.  Is that then not a feeling?

Hmm, maybe. Maybe not. If I stub my toe, it hurts but the toe stubbing is not a feeling the result of the toe stubbing is. However, since rejection is not necessarily a physical act but more an emotional one, is that a good analogy? If you hurt my emotional self and not my toe, is it feeling or again an act that causes a reaction?

My personal votes are still out but consider me currently feeling rejected by this male friend and daily feeling something physically in relation to how my daughter needs to handle our reunion.


18 Thoughts.

  1. Aw sweet, gorgeous Suz. I am very sorry your friend reacted that way. I want to say something like well if he’s that shallow you don’t want to be romantically involved with him anyway, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Very sorry.

  2. Suz: I dont want to apologize for this jerk.Thats what he is. He just crushed you and that is unforgivable. You are a beautiful girl, talented, and to astute to be this humble. This has happened to my own daughter and she just broke down and cried. When you think of the unhappiness these situations create to a persons feelings especially caused by someone who had no regard in how his attack might hurt you. Makes me mad.

  3. OK, look at this another way, it ahouldn’t matter if your skinny, fat, or half dead looking; When someone doesn’t appreciate you for who you are – then it’s their loss, not yours.
    They’ll never know what they’re missing and that’s a wonderful, funny, sensitive, strong and determined women. Stupid people!
    Mo xooxox

  4. Been on your side of it, and I’m so sorry this happened to you. He is shallow and vain. But I know that doesn’t take the sting out of it.
    In my opinion — anything that causes a physiological reaction in the body has a feeling component to it. Even stubbing your toe causes a feeling of anger. With rejection, there is that horrific feeling in your stomach, and if you’re like me, that flush of adrenaline that brings on a sense of near-panic. Definitely has a feeling component.
    But who’s splitting hairs — feeling or not, it feels awful!!
    Hugs to you, girl!

  5. This is a very, very good question. I’m going to discuss it with some of my psych friends.
    I do know one thing… abandonment is a feeling. And for me, rejection often times triggers abandonment. But not sure if that’s the case for everyone or if that’s my adoption stuff again ;).
    I’m so sorry to hear about experience of rejection Suz :(. Sucks.

  6. I wonder if some of these men prefer anorexic chicks because they figure they won’t have to spend too much on dinner…

  7. If there wasn’t chemistry, there just wasn’t chemistry. He could have left it at that and then you could remain friends. But no, he had to be rude. I guess you were probably too stunned to call him out on his rudeness. It is hard to do that when you are hurt.
    I remember something like this happening to me many years ago. The only thing you should feel is angry for wasting your time. I am sure he isn’t mr. perfect either!

  8. Interesting article about pain in the brain. Feelings appear in my body when I don’t know how to deal with the emotions. The physical pain indicates my emotions are out of balance. Another indicator for me is getting confused or ‘spaced out’.
    Rejection = abandonment, a big issue, no? One way of dealing with it is to play with my mind, because my beliefs tell me I’m rejected or rejecting. Like the temptation to reject the guy for rejecting me. If I believed the guy and I were going to have a good relationship or that we should be a good match then I’m ready to get rejected.
    I’ve believed that I should be attractive to men. The reality is that I am attractive to some and not to others. Sometimes I’m attractive to the ones I’m attracted to.
    Do you ever read Amy Alkorn? I get a kick out of her even though she talks rough.
    I love practical.

  9. Angelle – If there wasn’t chemistry, there just wasn’t chemistry. He could have left it at that and then you could remain friends. But no, he had to be rude.
    I couldnt agree more. That was my point to a few friends. I do appreciate honesty and candor and have no difficulty accepting lack of chemistry but COME ON be delicate with the delivery of some information, no?
    Yikes. Some people are amazingly lacking in social skills.

  10. First, what an A-hole!!! Good riddance. Please don’t internalize his BS. You are a wonderful person.
    Second, I also don’t care whether rejection is an emotion or not. You can feel it even if it isn’t the case. An adoptee or a mom can feel rejected even when they haven’t been. Or not feel it (not get it?) when they were.
    Your friends were doing the “how many angels fit on the head of a pin?” debate. Who cares?!?!?

  11. Do you like/feel attracted to the person still? Did you ask how much you needed to loose? Does it seem reasonable to loose weight? Is this person worth your effort? You don’t look fat to me. Is he saying he would pay for lipo? Did this person go into more detail about it? Or the feeling/thought was its over never gonna happen…only because you are fat? Thats ridiculous…on so many different levels…You know it and your letting it get to your core.I let everyday rejection rattle my core too. We just need to get thicker skin. Thats all.

  12. Wow. Yes, I have the same reaction as the other commenters — what a shallow jerk. But I’m sure that doesn’t lesson the pain, the rejection.
    He probably hit where it really hurt too, huh? Shithead.

  13. I usually lurk but I HATE guys like that. It’s not even their preference of a certain body type (there are guys out there who can’t stand skinny girls, and they’re entitled to their preference too) but the sheer rudeness of it. “Sorry, wasn’t feeling the chemistry” is perfectly adequate. I hope we raise our sons to do better than that.
    And yes, I think it’s a feeling.

  14. First, Jackass…probably had issues of his own that he was covering up for!
    Sorry, but Maria isn’t much better for actually proposing someone lose weight or get Lipo just to hopefully woo someone (regardless of who pays!)…lose the weight because of health or because you want to. WTF Maria…4.6 billion people in the world…NEXT!

  15. Oh, Suz, I’m sorry that this guy did this to you.
    And I think what you are feeling is a feeling unto itself. Rejection is certainly sadness, but it’s different from the sadness you feel ABOUT other things, like events or deaths in the family. Rejection makes us question our value, and that in my opinion makes it a very different feeling than the sadness I might feel when a relative passes away or a tragedy occurs somewhere in the world.
    Hugs to you. I think you’re gorgeous, too, and this gentleman is missing something very special.

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