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The Social Contract in Unrequited Love

The Social Contract in Unrequited Love.

In the initial stages, psychologists assumed that rejection would mainly lead to emotional distress and affect behaviour. However, the accumulated weight of research found that distress and behavioural effects came without any mediation by emotion. As I have written in my blog Psychology of Rejection in Unrequited Love, 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. Hence, it was found that if humans can restrain their selfish impulses so as to follow rules and cooperate, even after being rejected in unrequited love, they can gain the immense rewards of belonging and lead a normal life.

Self-regulation of an unrequited lover helps solve the primary purpose of enabling them to restrain themselves so as to gain social acceptance. Moving on in life requires both effort and sacrifice, but these are normally compensated by the benefits of belonging to your social group like you did before this entire episode. That is the essential social contract.

Certainly there is ample evidence that people who do not gather themselves after rejection end up being excluded by others. Their friends eventually dump them, their employers fire them, and in serious cases society expels them because low self-control may be lead to some kind of criminality. Conversely, it has also been found that acceptance of friends and family helps unrequited lovers in handling the situation. As I have written in my blog Benefits of Unrequited Love, the ‘bad phase’ of your life also gives your friends and family a chance to show you how much they care. While they’re trying everything to get you out of the mess, your relationships with each of them are growing stronger. If neglected by friends and family, a rejected individual loses the willingness to make the efforts and sacrifices to change their behaviour according to the prescriptions of others.

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This theory has pointed out that minority social groups who feel excluded show many of the same patterns as unrequited lovers- antisocial behaviour, high rates of aggression, decreased willingness to obey rules or cooperate, more self-destructive acts. poorer intellectual performance, etc. If we could possibly promote a more inclusive society, some of these tragic patterns could be reduced when people feel themselves to be accepted as valued members.

Feeling no Pain

While the absence of emotion after rejection and behaviour followed by it, continued to puzzle the psychologists, they initially thought they might have measured it wrong, but after conducting research over half a dozen different measures, the concluded that rejected lovers really don’t seem upset. At times, they are quite clear in stating they do not feel anything. An important clue that came from these researches was that rejection seems to elicit reactions similar to physical injury and pain. Some researchers had claimed before that as animals evolved to become more social, they used the same old physiological systems to monitor social events as they did for physical events. And recent brain-imaging work suggested that the brain’s response to pain and to rejection is quite similar.

We all know that the body seems to create a state of shock that brings numbness, when first hit with a severe and painful injury; similarly, rejection leads an individual into a state of shock, followed by numbness. This might explain the apparent lack of emotion after rejection. That is, the physical numbness was linked to the emotional numbness. Thus, the lack of emotion in studies is not simply a result of people denying their feelings or being too embarrassed to admit them. It rather appears that their emotional system genuinely shuts down. They seem emotionally numb, not just to their recent rejection experience but also to the sufferings of others and are unable to express pain or sympathy.


After the dismal picture of unrequited lovers that has been painted in the article, let me close on a positive not. If a rejected lover finds an apparent opportunity to make a new friend, then he seems extra willing to exert himself to respond positively. Under promising circumstances, previously rejected lovers are more likely than others to choose to trust someone, to praise and pamper a new partner, and also to view others as potentially friendly and accepting.

Please share your opinion about this article in the comments section and I will include it in my future articles.


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