Withstand Rejection Better with Mindfulness

Withstand Rejection Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“People who have greater levels of mindfulness — or the tendency to maintain attention on and awareness of the present moment — are better able to cope with the pain of being rejected by others.” – Brian McNeill

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. This deep need for positive social interactions heightens the pain of social rejection.

 

Mindfulness has been found to increase prosocial behaviors such as altruism, compassion and empathy and reduce antisocial behaviors such as violence and aggression. It can also improve the individual’s ability to respond adaptively to strong emotions. So, it is possible that mindfulness may work to counter the effects of social rejection. In today’s Research News article “When less is more: mindfulness predicts adaptive affective responding to rejection via reduced prefrontal recruitment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6022565/ ), Martelli and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to the ability to cope with social rejection and its relationship to brain structure and connectivity.

 

They recruited healthy undergraduate students and measured them for mindfulness and social distress. They then played a video game while having their brain scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The game was called “Cyberball” which the participant believed they were playing on-line with others. The players tossed a “ball” to each others. After a while the participant stopped receiving the “ball” from other players simulating social rejection. They were then measured again for social distress.

 

They found that after the social “rejection” that the participants who were high in mindfulness were significantly lower in social distress. This suggests that mindfulness tends to protect the individual from the negative emotions associated with social rejection. In addition, they found that the high mindfulness was associated with lower activation of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and less connectivity of the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex with the Amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This lower activity and connectivity was associated with lower social distress following social rejection.

 

This study employs a fairly artificial method to simulate the social distress produced by rejection. But, the participants reported ignorance that the game was not actually being played socially and the “rejection” appeared to increase distress. So, the lab task appeared to be valid. It should be kept in mind, however, that the findings are correlational and as a result no conclusions can be reached regarding causation. Future research should investigate the impact of mindfulness training on the social distress produced by rejection.

 

The results of the fMRI scans suggest that activation of a brain network including the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex are involved in social distress and that mindfulness is associated with lower activity in these structures resulting in less social distress. So, mindfulness may work to dampen brain activity that’s involved in social distress helping to protect the individual from the negative emotions produced by social rejection.

 

Rejection can be devastating to an individual. It can produce strong negative emotions. The fact that mindfulness appears to help the individual cope with the rejection is and important benefit of mindfulness. It further suggests that people suffering from social anxiety might benefit from mindfulness training. Indeed, previous research indicates exactly that. Mindfulness training is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.

 

So, withstand rejection better with mindfulness.

 

“Mindful individuals are not as distressed by social rejection.  Mindful individuals appear to successfully regulate distressing emotions by not using effortful, inhibitory processes that suppress their feelings of social pain.” – Shawna Freshwater

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Martelli, A. M., Chester, D. S., Warren Brown, K., Eisenberger, N. I., & DeWall, C. N. (2018). When less is more: mindfulness predicts adaptive affective responding to rejection via reduced prefrontal recruitment. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(6), 648–655. http://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsy037

 

Abstract

Social rejection is a distressing and painful event that many people must cope with on a frequent basis. Mindfulness—defined here as a mental state of receptive attentiveness to internal and external stimuli as they arise, moment-to-moment—may buffer such social distress. However, little research indicates whether mindful individuals adaptively regulate the distress of rejection—or the neural mechanisms underlying this potential capacity. To fill these gaps in the literature, participants reported their trait mindfulness and then completed a social rejection paradigm (Cyberball) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Approximately 1 hour after the rejection incident, participants reported their level of distress during rejection (i.e. social distress). Mindfulness was associated with less distress during rejection. This relation was mediated by lower activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during the rejection incident, a brain region reliably associated with the inhibition of negative affect. Mindfulness was also correlated with less functional connectivity between the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the bilateral amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which play a critical role in the generation of social distress. Mindfulness may relate to effective coping with rejection by not over-activating top-down regulatory mechanisms, potentially resulting in more effective long-term emotion-regulation.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6022565/

 

Reduce Sensitivity to Rejection with Non-Judging Mindfulness

Reduce Sensitivity to Rejection with Non-Judging Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Simply acknowledging that rejection will hurt, whatever we do, can in itself be a relief. Much of our suffering comes from wishing that our experience was different to how it currently is. But mindfulness helps us to see and accept this moment, however we happen to find it, even if our moment is filled with feelings of unworthiness. The trick is to remember that unworthiness is a transitory feeling, never an absolute truth about us.” – The Mindfulness Project

 

Being rejected socially is a painful but common experience. Our sensitivity to rejection probably evolved to help maintain group cohesion which was essential during early human evolutionary development. So, it is normal and natural. But, being overly sensitive to rejection can be maladaptive not just to the individual but also to the group as it can accentuate withdrawal. Indeed, high sensitivity to rejection is characteristic of a number of mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, depression, and social anxiety.

 

Mindfulness makes us more aware of ourselves and our emotions and improves our ability to cope with these emotions. As such, it may help with coping with rejection. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve social relationships, including romantic relationships, and reduce our dependence on other people. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve the mental illnesses that are characterized by high levels of rejection sensitivity, including borderline personality disorder, depression, and social anxiety. So, it makes sense to hypothesize that mindfulness may be an antidote to high sensitivity to rejection.

 

In today’s Research News article “Dispositional mindfulness and rejection sensitivity: The critical role of nonjudgment.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809056/

Peters and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness to rejection sensitivity. They recruited college students and required them to complete online measures of five different facets of mindfulness, rejection sensitivity, and positive and negative emotions. They then preformed statistical analysis to determine the relationships between these variables.

 

They found that the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness, nonjudging, nonreactivity, and describing were all significantly negatively related to rejection sensitivity and negative emotions. When these mindfulness facets were included simultaneously in a multiple regression the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness, nonjudging, and nonreactivity remained as significant predictors of low rejection sensitivity, but nonjudging was by far the strongest predictor. In addition, nonjudging was found to moderate the relationship between rejection sensitivity and negative emotions, suggesting that nonjudging may protect the individual from the bad feelings produced by rejection.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that this study was correlational and thereby cannot determine causal connections. It is equally likely that rejection sensitivity interferes with mindfulness as that mindfulness reduces rejection sensitivity. Nevertheless, the results confirm the relationship between high levels of mindfulness, especially nonjudging and low levels of sensitivity to rejection. This relationship may occur by nonjudging protecting the individual from the negative emotions resulting from rejection. Judging experience can make it seem worse than it is and amplify the emotional consequences of the experience. So, by not judging an experience of rejection, the individual may be better able to keep the emotions elicited at a more normal and natural level.

 

So, reduce sensitivity to rejection with non-judging mindfulness.

 

“Rejections aren’t the end of the world but sometimes we can react as if they are. Being turned away from one opportunity makes you available for another. Ultimately, I encourage people not to take things so seriously. If that reaction arises, mindfulness practice can help people to back away from it and keep things in perspective.”Arnie Kozak

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Peters, J. R., Eisenlohr-Moul, T. A., & Smart, L. M. (2016). Dispositional mindfulness and rejection sensitivity: The critical role of nonjudgment. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 125–129. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.06.029

 

Highlights

  • Examined relationships between facets of mindfulness and rejection sensitivity (RS)
  • RS was negatively associated with multiple mindfulness facets, especially nonjudging
  • Increased nonjudging reduced the association between RS and trait negative affect
  • Mindfulness, specifically nonjudging, may be protective against RS and its effects

Abstract

The pain of rejection is a crucial component of normal social functioning; however, heightened sensitivity to rejection can be impairing in numerous ways. Mindfulness-based interventions have been effective with several populations characterized by elevated sensitivity to rejection; however, the relationship between mindfulness and rejection sensitivity has been largely unstudied. The present study examines associations between rejection sensitivity and multiple dimensions of dispositional mindfulness, with the hypothesis that a nonjudgmental orientation to inner experiences would be both associated with decreased rejection sensitivity and attenuate the impact of sensitivity to rejection on general negative affect. A cross-sectional sample of undergraduates (n = 451) completed self-report measures of rejection sensitivity, dispositional mindfulness, and trait-level negative affect. Significant zero-order correlations and independent effects were observed between most facets of dispositional mindfulness and rejection sensitivity, with nonjudging demonstrating the largest effects. As predicted, rejection sensitivity was associated with negative affectivity for people low in nonjudging (β = .27, t = 5.12, p < .001) but not for people high in nonjudging (β = .06, t = .99, p = .324). These findings provide preliminary support for mindfulness, specifically the nonjudging dimension, as a protective factor against rejection sensitivity and its effects on affect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809056/