There is no denying that rejection hurts, but why is it that it brings up feelings of anger?


Feeling loved and accepted is a primary human need and when you feel rejected you are being denied just that. When you are rejected, it can cause the same feeling as physical pain. This is because rejection activates the same areas of the brain as physical pain. Physical pain has been seen to provoke an anger response, for example, rats that were given an electric shock have gone on to randomly attack other rats.


When people feel devalued or rejected it is natural to become angry as you feel that the other person is not taking your wants and needs seriously. By being ignored or excluded, the message portrayed is that you’re not worth another person’s time. This feeling is disheartening, especially if you are emotionally invested in the other individual.


If you feel that the other person is not giving you as much affection as you would like, despite the fact that you appreciate that you are valued and accepted by the other person, you may feel rejected. The amount of pain felt is based on how much value you give your relationship.


However, other than relational value, there are apparent individual differences in anger and one factor that may influence aggression is the fact that some people are simply more sensitive to rejection.


Several experimental studies have looked into this apparent connection between anger and rejection. The experimenters manipulate the participants into believing that the other participants had rejected them or making them feel excluded.

Participants who received extremely rejecting feedback reported feeling more angry than those who received the neutral or accepting feedback and said that they felt least valued and accepted. This can explain why, when we feel rejected by our romantic partners we feel angry, because our self-esteem is diminished and we feel that we are not loved and accepted, a primal human need.


It has also been seen that rejection causes people to become angry and react with aggression. Rejection accounted for 15% of the violent episodes of dating couples and 11% of those living together. Jealousy and sex were the other contributing factors. However, jealously involves feelings of rejection, as does conflicts about sexual needs, gratification or infidelity.


Males are more likely to react aggressively to a real or imminent separation or when they suspect their partners are involved in infidelity, as they are reportedly unable to deal with the rejection or lack of control over their wives. Females however are more likely to react aggressively towards their husbands after some form of physical or verbal abuse.


So rejection hurts, and pain is felt in the neurological pathways in the brain, this can lead to an anger reaction. Rejection also makes us feel unaccepted which will also trigger anger and these two factors, separated or combined can cause anger and can lead to aggression, so it is vital that you find a healthy way of dealing with rejection and your anger stemming from it.

Written by Hannah Johnson