Photo: Getty Images
Reject - “a: to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The dictionary definition hardly does justice to the true meaning of rejection. Most of us have experienced that kicked-in-the-gut-I-can’t-breathe feeling at least once that comes when you realize that you’ve been left out or excluded from the rest of the group. There’s always one child who’s the last one to be chosen for the baseball team at recess, or never invited to birthday parties, or asked to the prom. It would be nice to say that such incidents are simply part of the rite of passage of childhood and that once we enter adulthood rejection becomes nothing more than a faint scar we carry as a badge of honor for surviving our childhood - nice but, unfortunately, not true. Rejection is a part of life and from time to time, whether adult or child, rejection continues to rear its ugly head and bite. Not only does rejection hurt our feelings, it may also be potentially damaging to your health, including your heart health.
It’s long been known that there is a connection between inflammation and the development of numerous diseases including heart disease, depression, asthma, some types of cancer, and arthritis, to name a few. Over the past few years, the role of “social stress” in the development of inflammation-related diseases has been under closer scrutiny by the medical profession. In a study conducted by the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, researchers found a relationship between increased levels of inflammation markers in persons who’d just suffered rejection.
As a part of the study, 124 young adults were placed in situations designed to exert stress on the participant and make them feel rejected. For example, some participants were required to give a speech without preparation time or do complex math problems (without the aid of paper, pencils or the trusted calculator) in front of a not so friendly or supportive audience. A subset of 31 participants underwent a MRI while playing computer games where they were deliberately excluded or rejected by other players.