by Isobel Whitcomb
“When rock band R.E.M. belted out “Everybody hurts sometimes,” they weren’t singing about backaches or sprained ankles. They were, of course, referring to the intense pain our emotions can cause — like the pang of losing a cherished friend or the heaviness in your chest after a breakup. So why do we experience rejection and loss as literal heartache?
“The short answer: It helps us survive.
“Pain is a danger signal, said Geoff MacDonald, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. When you place your hand on a hot stove, for example, a network of neurons in your brain activates to send a message: Something is very wrong. ‘If you stub your toe, for a brief moment, your entire world is that toe,’ MacDonald told Live Science. ‘Pain is really good at disrupting attention and getting you singularly focused on making the bad thing stop.’
“From an evolutionary perspective, rejection is a really bad thing. For human ancestors, survival required a close social network, MacDonald said. ‘By cooperating, you can collect food better; you can protect against predators better,’ he said. ‘And obviously, if you’re not connected to other people, you’re going to have a hard time finding somebody to reproduce with.'”