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How to deal with rejection

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Rejection hurts. It’s incredibly painful to feel like you’re not wanted — and we do mean painful. Researchers found that we relate rejection to being “hurt,” using terms like “crushed” or “broken-hearted.” So, why does rejection trigger such a strong response, and is there any way to cope with this unique kind of pain? Explore common strategies to help you process this emotional experience.

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Meet The Creators

  • Director Caitlin McCarthy
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Chengqing Zhu, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
  • Expert Consultant Mark Leary
Additional Resources for you to Explore
To experience rejection is to feel deep emotional pain. Scientists, however, have gathered evidence to suggest that emotional pain and physical pain are not so vastly different — neurologically speaking. An fMRI study, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found that patterns of brain activation during times of social exclusion are similar to those that occur during moments of physical pain. Additional research out of the University of Michigan has indicated that personality traits like "resilience" differ according to variations in the brain's natural painkilling response. Other studies have attempted to more finely parse the differences between the neural representations of rejection and pain, but their neurochemical overlap continues to provide insight into the brain's overarching regulatory responses to stressors of all kinds.   

 Many psychologists interpret the pain of rejection as a link to our evolutionary origins as members of cooperative societies whose survival depended upon strong social bonds (for more information about humans' social evolution, read this article from Science Magazine, or check out this overview of the history of homo sapiens from the Australian Museum). However, none of this scientific understanding lessens the hurt we incur when we are the rejected party. Some people find themselves more sensitive to rejection than others, but studies have found that self-regulation can help individuals manage their hostile and damaging responses to the heightened fear of rejection. For more expert advice on how to move forward after a rejection, read this article from Time Magazine.  

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Caitlin McCarthy
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Chengqing Zhu, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
  • Expert Consultant Mark Leary

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