Social Acceptance and Rejection: The Sweet and the Bitter

For proof that rejection, exclusion, and acceptance are central to our lives, look no farther than the living room, says Nathan Dewall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. “If you turn on the television set, and watch any reality TV program, most of them are about rejection and acceptance,” he says. The reason, DeWall says, is that acceptance—in romantic relationships, from friends, even from strangers—is absolutely fundamental to humans.

In a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, DeWall and coauthor Brad J. Bushman of Ohio State University review recent psychological research on social acceptance and rejection. “Although psychologists have been interested in close relationships and what happens when those relationships go awry for a very long time, it’s only been about 15 yrs that psychologists have been doing this work on exclusion and rejection,” DeWall says. The results have highlighted how central acceptance is to our lives.

DeWall thinks belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself.

But acceptance has an evil twin: rejection. Being rejected is bad for your health. “People who feel isolated and lonely and excluded tend to have poor physical health,” DeWall says. They don’t sleep well, their immune systems sputter, and they even tend to die sooner than people who are surrounded by others who care about them.

Being excluded is also associated with poor mental health, and exclusion and mental health problems can join together in a destructive loop. People with depression may face exclusion more often because of the symptoms of their disorder—and being rejected makes them more depressed, DeWall says. People with social anxiety navigate their world constantly worried about being socially rejected. A feeling of exclusion can also contribute to suicide.

Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large, DeWall says. People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected.

It’s important to know how to cope with rejection. First of all, “We should assume that everyone is going to experience rejection on a semi-regular basis throughout their life,” DeWall says. It’s impossible to go through your entire life with everyone being nice to you all the time. When you are rejected or excluded, he says, the best way to deal with it is to seek out other sources of friendship or acceptance. “A lot of times, people keep these things to themselves because they’re embarrassed or they don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he says. But our bodies respond to rejection like they do to physical pain; the pain should be taken seriously, and it’s fine to seek out support. “When people feel lonely, or when people feel excluded or rejected, these are things they can talk about,” he says.

Comments

Inspirational

Only someone with a truly expert understanding of his field could speak so eloquently.

This is a society wide problem which needs to be dealt with!

It has been my experience that sharing episodes of having been ignored or rejected makes it more likely for the people you confide in to reject you in their turn. That is why many people hide these episodes and, when they are public, often give others the idea that they don’t care, thet it doesn’t affect them.

I have read and I do agree with this contagious aspect. I find that trying to hide my subconscious feelings betrays me. The outcome for me is the wall. Closing out people who I, for no good reason, distrust. Fearing some type of harm or abuse I guess. Am I living? Yes! I love my life and I do care for others, just the others who care for me also. It seems I am too demanding, perhaps. Perhaps many negative other things too. Who really can answer?

I think rejecting people reject people by their negative criticisms. They tell you that you need to change in order for them to like you better–for them to accept you.

Accepting people accept people. they may not think you are perfect, but you are good enough for them, maybe even great, They are not telling you you should change for the better, for yourself or them.

Whether you are rejected or accepted depends on the type of person you are dealing with and says nothing at all about your worthiness.

I stand up to rejection whenever I encounter it, and make sure my inner circle has room for accepting people only.

My late father was quite religious and he had taught me this simple prayer/saying that I feel applies directly to the concept of acceptance and rejection: Lord, give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, the serenity to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Half of my siblings have ostracized me for reasons I am partly responsible for and for which I have apologized, however the outcome has remained the same. Is it jealousy, anger, who knows? I believe my late father did and that prayer gets me through it all with humility and helps me understand my human limitations.
I have misunderstandings and I guess anger over my responsibility with the outcome and these feelings are possibly transmitted to my children also. I make efforts to hide my shameful part. Then I realize how little control I have over Love. God bless whoever reads this and if there is no God, cause I can’t prove there is, then l say let kind and loving souls surround you.

Rejection includes many different type of people and their situations. There is one group of people who suffer from rejection in high numbers. They are the sexually abused. The stats for men, women, children, infants and teens are astronomically high. Rejection is taking it’s toll in this area.

To Patrick Morin yes there is a God and I do believe that we all have and have been rejected at one time or another, that prayer I n your message is perfect for social acceptance when it comes to people feeling rejected thank you for the words of encouragement

I have been ostracised in the past. It has made me feel very insulted and angry.

I know they would never be sorry and instead of apologising will come up with unconvincing excuse.

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