Liz Hoggard: I've been dumped. How cool is that?

Rejection needs a better press - it teaches us stuff

Related Topics

For those of us who lay on the bedroom floor and howled last night, there is vindication. Breaking up with a partner really can be painful. Scientists have proved for the first time ever that mental agony is controlled by the same gene as physical pain. So if you're reeling from a text from a lover saying, "Sorry but there's no spark", or reminding you that you are simply friends with benefits, you are not alone.

Psychologists at the University of California say the body reacts by releasing the same chemical painkillers for a broken heart as it does for a broken leg.

Already I feel much better. Part of the pain of rejection is the humiliating sense that you are overreacting. That you are wallowing in self-pity when far greater tragedies are going on in the world.

Have I been dumped? Let me count the ways. Stage one: behave like a complete drama queen (drink, tears, no sharp instruments in the house). Stage two involves rallying and plotting and scheming. Stage three? Well, let's just say sobbing naked at the bottom of the stairs ("But why won't you sleep with me?") is not a good look. But now we martyrs have gravitas. There is a genuine overlap in the neurobiology of physical and social pain. Maybe we'll even get time off work.

Better still, researchers have found that some people simply do suffer more. Those with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection than those with the more common form. Scientists can tell because we have higher levels of the gene that regulates the body's most potent painkillers – mu-opioids.

It's been a good week for the lovelorn. 500 Days of Summer – the new intelligent autumn rom-com – is taking America by storm. We get it here in a couple of weeks. And it really does make rejection look pretty damn cool.

The film – dubbed the first great cinematic romance of the Facebook generation – follows Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an aspiring architect turned greetings card writer who is dumped by the love of his life, Summer (brilliant Zooey Deschanel). We watch as bliss on Day 28 turns into agony on Day 316.

The great twist is that the film is written and directed by three men. Not only do we get the story through Tom's eyes (the sensitive Gordon-Levitt is an honorary girl), but it also means rejection in love is presented with wit and colour and dignity. And there's a bloody great soundtrack.

Decent people suffer, the film seems to say. We shouldn't apologise for being genuine. Instead of the usual embarrassing Bridget Jones eye-rolling and hand-wringing, you think: "Hey that looks OK. I can defend being distraught in love."

Rejection needs a better press, my friends. Because it teaches us stuff. According to Professor Eisenberger, co-author of the University of California study, we are hard-wired to feel the pain so we turn out better friends and lovers. "Because social connection is so important," she explains, "feeling literally hurt by not having social connections may be an adaptive way to make sure we keep them."

As 500 Days of Summer proves, even handsome, clever men can pathologise the love object and make mistakes. The difference is that Tom isn't made to look ridiculous. Women will love the film – proof that we aren't the only ones to be mad and bad and sad.

Men should love it, too. The only problem will be getting them to go and see it in the first place.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower