Using a MRI scan university researchers discovered that emotional pain associated with rejection is as real as physical pain.
In 2011, the group led by University of Michigan associate professor Ethan Kross studied 40 people who had recently gone through a romantic break-up within the previous six months. All the participants chosen mentioned having felt intense feelings of rejection due to the ending of the relationship.
The 40 people were then put through two tests one related to the emotional pain they felt over the rejection and the other actual physical pain.
In the first test, the study subjects viewed an image of their ex and were asked to think about the break up. In the second stage, thermal devices were attached to their arms that created heat the equivalent of hot coffee.
As the 40 people went through these and other comparative tests, the researchers monitored their brain activity using MRIs.
The researchers found that feelings of rejection sparked neural activity in the same area of the brain where people felt physical pain. In other words emotional anguish is as real as physical pain.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Kross said:
“We found that powerfully inducing feelings of social rejection activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensations.”
We experience rejection in many ways and these can have a serious impact on our well-being. It could be the emotional trauma associated with divorce or simply being passed over for a promotion.
It could be rejection from coworkers or school classmates or even believing your parents favored another sibling over you. The rejection could be decades old, but it can still have a hold on you.
And God is very concerned about healing us from the emotional pain associated with these episodes of rejection.
In Matthew we read:
16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities (astheneia)and carried away our diseases (nosous).” (Matthew 8:17 NASV)
It is an unusual verse because the verse separates out two types of illnesses “infirmities” and “diseases.” The Greek word for diseases ‘nosous’ is the word typically used to describe illness or sickness.
However, ‘infirmity’ (Greek astheneia) describes something different. It refers to ‘weaknesses” and can describe weaknesses associated with a physical disability (Luke 13:11-12). But the word also refers to timidity, a lack of confidence or fear in social situations.
The Apostle Paul used the word to describe his fear — insecurity or lack of confidence — about his visit to the Corinthian church:
3 I was with you in weakness (astheneia) and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-4 NASV)
Why were these fears there — simply the apostle feared rejection.
Notice how it says in Matthew that Jesus took our infirmities. The word means to receive or to take away and in order for this to happen, we have to give our weakness to Christ.
How do we do this?
We give them to Jesus by forgiving those who rejected us.