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Psychology of Rejection in Unrequited Love

Psychology of Rejection in Unrequited Love.

Nobody likes you. What now?

‘You may now leave the house.’ This often heard language of reality television relentlessly focuses on rejection. Apparently, while watching reality shows, the spectacle of people being evicted from a group or event appeals to the watching public in strange ways. People find rejection as recharging as sex. Why is it so interesting?

would think the answer lies in the human need to belong. We are fundamentally social to the extent that other animals cannot imagine. Animals generally learn about their world with the use of their five senses. Humans learn about the world from each other. Social connection is the blood and breath of human life, and rejection strikes at its very core.

I took a long time to realise the central importance of belongingness and rejection. Before psychology, my intellectual background was a mix of existentialist philosophy, humanistic, social upbringing. Hence, I had a severely individualist view of life and human behaviour. People like me mostly emphasise individualistic approaches. For example, exploring a single person’s cognitive processes in reaction to social events. For me, this approach changed when I read an article ‘The need to belong’, which made me believe that people are perpetually guided by the need to connect with other individuals. A majority of their impulses, thoughts, emotions and behaviours are directly or indirectly rooted in that drive. Human need to belong is much deeply rooted than any other social animal. This is partially because we are shaped by nature to create and sustain culture. Here, I don’t mean the culture of a country or community. Culture as a highly complex and flexible system of the society, based on role differentiation. We have been made by nature specifically to sustain culture.

unrequited love 9 Aug 16

If you analyse, we get pretty much everything from our social network. Be it food, shelter, entertainment, appreciation and even our romantic partners. That said, why are there so many people in unrequited love. Is that our culture? As I have written in my blog Unrequited Love and Cinema, there are behaviours culturally imposed on us about romantic relationships and how they affect lovers in real life, making it look normal for lovers to pursue someone who belongs to a completely different religious, social or financial background. This leads to cases of unrequited love and heartbreak.

The way we behave, feel, think and act are deeply linked to the goal of connecting us to the cultural system. In that way, rejection or social exclusion is not simply a misfortune. Nor is it just a sad drama. It strikes at the core of what our psyche is designed for. Social exclusion or rejection thwarts the need to belong. It causes emotional distress, and wreaks havoc in the person’s life. This is why, when your loved one walks away like there was nothing between the two of you, the chemical reactions that go on inside the unrequited lover’s body are similar to the loss of a loved one. I have written about this in detail in my blog Addicted to Grief. You feel inconsolably hurt, broken and shattered. Although emotional pain is different from physical pain, a break-up or rejection literally crushes your heart in a way that you feel it breaking inside your chest like it was physically happening.

Rejection has a grievous impact on behaviour, sure enough. But the emotion rarely shows! Often rejection fails to bring out immediate emotional reaction. Why is that so? Social exclusion does affect us, but these effects do not depend on emotional distress. This has been rather shocking and has led us to question the purpose of emotion and its relationship to behaviour. However, in case of unrequited love, despite the fact that it is connected with tension and anxiety, this state, mixed with hope of reciprocity leads the unrequited lover to feel extreme happiness to the level of euphoria. As I have written in my blog Unrequited Love and Cocaine, this reaction is similar to the effect of cocaine. Like cocaine, love increases the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the body. Because dopamine is associated with pleasure and causes the brain to think about pleasurable moments, narcotic drugs like cocaine increase the brain’s levels of dopamine and cause addiction. This scientifically explains why unrequited lovers are addicted to the object of love.

In my next post, I am going to write more about the individualistic psychology of rejection in unrequited love. Please share your opinion in the comments section. This is a research blog and your experiences will add value to it.

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