Rejection and Heartbreak


"Parting is all we need to know of hell.” Emily Dickinson got it right. Almost no one in the world escapes the feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, fear and fury that rejection can create. Among college students at Case Western Reserve, 93% of both men and women reported that they had been dumped by someone they passionately loved; 93% also said they had rejected someone who was deeply in love them. And these men and women were still young—with decades of love, and possible disasters, ahead of them. Ain’t love grand? You bet…when your passion is returned and things are going well. But when love is unrequited, it’s a whole other story.

To understand what is going on in the brain when you have been rejected in love, Lucy, Helen and others put 15 men and women who had just been rejected into the brain scanner. Their average age was twenty; they had been passionately in love a mean of 21 months, and they had been rejected an average of 63 days prior to their scanning date. And as Helen established in her interview with each participant before the experiment, none were entirely in control of their emotions or actions. Most were still calling their rejecter in the middle of the night, showing up unexpectedly to seduce or plead, or frantically sending emails--all in hopes of renewing the relationship. A few, on the other hand, had entirely given up--and slipped into profound despair.

The main results of our study showed that romantic rejection is like withdrawing from cocaine!  It also is like being in great physical pain.  Importantly, unconscious brain systems are working at evaluating the situation and starting to build a "new you."

Click here to read more about the results of the study.

Click here to find out more about love, rejection and how they are like addictions to substances like nicotine and addiction.

Click here to find out our suggestions for getting over heartbreak.


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Shila Norris

So I want to know if you have started to explore the condition known as “First love attachment”

Apparently, it’s very real & is reeking havoc in many peoples lives, including my own.

There is no real “answer” to “cure” this condition, so to speak…

But I read about how this attachment is so powerful that when activated, it creates a bond like that of a mother & child. It’s life long for most people.

My husband and I have always had a very surface/superficial relationship. We’ve never had a deep connection. He recently contacted a high school girlfriend (first love) and is totally consumed. He admitted to her in messages that she’s always been the “true captor of his heart & soul” & no one has ever come close.
I’ve done some digging & found these websites that talked a little bit more about it.

Lucy Brown

No, Shila, we haven’t studied “First love attachment.” It is very real for those who experience it, and certainly it is interesting why some people don’t “let go.” Romance is tenacious. The brain systems are at an unconscious level like a reflex. Also, many people seek a change back to something that gave them a lot of excitement and pleasure if they feel their current life is missing something. Almost all of us are “Explorers” after 5 or more years of marriage. It takes a lot of work on the part of both partners to work through the best thing to do if one has sought a past “first love.” By the way, it isn’t necessarily the “first” love. It may be a second or third. You’ve found some good websites that discuss this. I hope you and your husband can work this through. Lucy


This article doesn’t offer help or guidance on how to manage rejection… I don’t understand how staying what is apparent and giving scientific reasons for it helps?

Lucy Brown

Sorry these suggestions didn’t help! The science helps a lot of people to focus on what is apparent to you. People have lots of suggestions and advice for managing rejection. I’ve heard some people say, “Oh, just forget her! What a jerk she is.” We focus on the brain physiology results because we think they point to the most influential aspects of our behavior. If managing rejection is understood as managing an addiction like nicotine, it gives a perspective on how hard it is and how important it is to stay away from the other person, and all the reminders. It also lets us know in a dramatic way how time is the great healer. It takes time to change a habit.


robinson.buckler @ yahoo. com…… restored my relationship, my boyfriend came back to me, i took him back and I am now settled with my him….

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