Monday, April 18, 2011

Emotional Pain Is Physical Pain

According to a recent study conducted at the University Of Michigan, researchers discovered that the same regions of the brain that become active in response during pain are activated when there are experiences of social rejection or hurt (i.e. relationship breakups).

According to Ethan Kross, lead researcher of the study stated, that on the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person you broke up with, may seem to elicit very different types of pain. According to Kross, his research shows that may be more similar than initially thought.

Through two tasks that induced the feelings from a relationship breakup in 40 participants, they found that regions of the brain were activated that are the same regions of the brain which are involved in physical pain sensation. All tasks were performed while participants went through a functional MRI scan.

In addition, they compared the results of this study to a database of more than 500 previous studies which again showed the brain response to physical pain, emotion, memory and resolution. The research team hopes that these findings will lead to new insights into how, intense social loss, may lead to various physical pain symptoms and disorders.

Personally, I am grateful to see studies such as this being conducted. Although, I have went through some very physical ordeals related to emotions, the more credible scientific research that backs up this normal part of life, the further we advance ourselves.

Pain is a direct result of what is going on in the mind and body of a person. All too often, we try to ignore it, numb it, avoid it or think happy thoughts hoping it will just go away. The part that matters though is not just recognizing that a connection between pain in the body and the emotions of the mind exist, but that we take proactive steps to learn from this and evolve ourselves in awareness.

When you connect the "felt sense" of the body to the what is going on in the person's life (or your own life) at that particular moment, that realization starts the process of healing. It is a powerful realization that may take us into moments of hidden fear and unknown spaces of our lives. If we allow ourselves to travel into these moments, than we can transform ourselves beyond just the pain. There is no greater gift we can give our self then to awaken and evolve and we do that by going into the pain, not by avoiding it.

These researchers have the right idea and a good first step. There is much more though to the healing process. It involves more than taking medications or numbing ourselves through alcohol or drugs or anything else that has become our crutch in life. We cannot think these things away because the connection is in the body and in order to heal it, we must feel it. Happy thoughts, religion, spirituality and new age practices may get us closer but until we go in and feel that which we do not want to feel, we'll still be searching for the answers to pain for a long time.

Further Reading:
1) Social Rejection Hurts Like Physical Pain -

2) Study Illuminates The Pain Of Social Rejection - University Of Michigan

3) Felt Sense In The Body (Blog Post on Nov 6, 2010)

Blog Post & Images (c) 3/29/11 Don Shetterly - use by permission only

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