Belonging is an essential human need for survival and differs not from our need of food, water and shelter. Tied to our feeling of belonging are our health, happiness and motivation.
Belonging is a basic human need at the same level of importance as food, water and shelter. It is so powerful that it can create a value in our lives. It enables us to learn healthy coping skills when experiencing painful, intensive emotions. Our health, happiness and motivation are tied to the feeling that we belong. Researchers have studied skin-to-skin contact between babies and their parents and found that when this is combined with a strong emotional engagement, a baby's developmental growth and its recognition of self increases significantly. Intellectual levels, social skills, mental health, physical health and motivation are just some of the many areas of our lives that are improved when we live with a sense of belonging. Research has shown that a person's well-being can be jeopardised by only one instance of exclusion from a group and this exclusion can have a negative impact on an individual's well-being, IQ test performance and self-control.
This is why rejection can be so devastating. Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. MRI studies have shown that the same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain.
Researchers studying the roots of rejection found evidence that the pain of being excluded is not so different from the pain of physical injury. Additionally, rejection has serious implications for our psychological state and social rejection can influence our emotions, cognition and physical health. To study rejection inside an MRI scanner, the researchers used a technique called Cyberball, where a subject plays an online game of catch with two other players. After a period, the two other players begin to throw the ball to each other, thereby excluding the subject. Compared with the two volunteers who continued to be included, the subject rejected showed increased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate and the anterior insula, two of the regions that show increased activity in response to physical pain. From the brain’s point of view, a broken heart is not much different to a broken leg and to find out if social rejection hurt like physical pain, and if it could therefore be treated like physical pain they assigned volunteers to take over the counter pain killer Tylenol, or a placebo daily for three weeks. Those who took the drug recounted fewer episodes of hurt feelings than those who took the placebo group. The reports were supported by an fMRI study, which found that the volunteers who had taken the acetaminophen had less activity in the pain-related regions of their brains when rejected in Cyberball, in contrast to those taking a placebo.
Following rejection, when our self-esteem is hurting most, we can cause further pain by being self-critical. By blaming ourselves and being self-critical we deepen the emotional pain making recovery more difficult. What we really require is treatment for our emotional pain. This treatment will soothe the pain and reduce our aggression and anger while protecting our self-esteem and stabilising our need to belong.
The therapist will assist the client in reaching a healthy, functioning self-esteem which in turn will bring about a positive sense of self-acceptance. The therapist will work on building the client’s self-confidence and overcoming their fears of loneliness and rejection. The therapist will additionally help the client to explore the reasons for the rejection.