Physiological reactions to the wounds of rejection, distantiation

This essay from the NY Times Sunday Review describes a study which pointed out one of the involuntary physiological reactions we have to being rejected, excluded, cast into societally devalued roles (such as ‘other’): namely, a drop in body temperature in our extremities (such as our fingertips). This study underscores the reality and depth of the hinge wound of rejection (so described by Wolfensberger), which affects even the autonomic nervous systems in our bodies. We human beings so deeply need acceptance and belonging, and are so wounded by life-defining rejection and exclusion. Sadly, such rejection is part of the life history of so many societally devalued people, even those who receive services. This is one of the key lessons taught in SRV and PASSING workshops. The study can also emphasize for us the imperative to help societally devalued people to gain valued social roles, which are the key to belonging, acceptance, personal social integration and valued social and societal participation.

Marc Tumeinski

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  1. Written by Darrell Wills
    on December 11, 2012 at 8:03 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Nice find Marc.
    We are actually hardwired for inclusion.
    We know much about the fight and flight responses – those two almost instantaneous “judgements” our brain makes in response to the recognition of others and things that may harm us. Less known is the automaticity and unconscious signals that accompanying the response of embrace. As the creature whose young are most vulnerable for significant portions of life ‐13 years or more‐ we are pre‐wired with potential to recognise those who will assist, those who are of our family, clan and tribe for whom we can share and expect reciprocity. Darwin recognised this as empathy ‐ I call it the reflex to embrace. It makes evolutionary sense for the human to be “wired with potential” early on to recognise when to run from danger or judge the ability to stand in danger’s face and when to hold one’s ground. Equally, it makes sense that this “fight and flight reflex” to be accompanied by a reciprocal, instantaneous recognition of who we can embrace ‐ for to survive the savannah, the small, fairly weak, humans needed to share and needed to recognise who among them would do so. The best of those early co‐operators survived and continue to this day to survive, not by competition but by cooperation, in and within strong family, clan, tribe and later nation groups. We know this ‐ for this is how we have “structured up” societies for at least as long as our recorded histories tell us and these histories now extend into the beginnings of a DNA trail that confirm our bonding in groups are hard‐wired with such potential.
    So why do we pay such little attention to the reflex to embrace while the reflexes to fight or flight are so universally apparent? From what I can discern, we are wired to be good and recognise good, however we pay more immediate attention to bad and danger because of their difference in terms of urgency vs. fundamentality of need. That is, when danger arises, we must assess and act urgently. Therefore it takes some precedence in terms of short term survival. Sharing and reciprocity are fundamental for the long term survival of individual as well as family, clan, tribe and nation; however their instinct often falls victim to the short term stress or focus of the individual, family, clan or nation.
    Kind thoughts
    Darrell Wills

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