Emotional pain is as real as physical pain.
We have all experienced it. However, the way most people deal with emotional
pain is different from how they deal with physical pain. When we have physical
pain, we hardly deny it. We have no problem going to see a doctor about it so
that the pain is looked at and treated. If someone breaks a leg for instance,
there is no hesitation in going to see an orthopedist and taking pain relievers
to stop the leg from hurting. There is hardly any negative self talk or blame
like, âYou fool. You good-for-nothing. What can you do right? You broke your
leg due to your stupidity.â But when we feel emotional pain, we hardly ask for
help. What do we do? We deny it or we look for something to distract us from
feeling the pain. We seem to find it hard to deal with emotional pain or even
get help. For a broken leg, you know that something is wrong. But for an
emotional pain, you may not know that something is wrong with you apart from
your pain. Also, a broken leg is a broken leg but each personâs emotional pain
can manifest in different ways or symptoms.
When you experience emotional pain, people
may not know that you are in pain. You may even doubt that there is something
wrong. Added to that is your negative self talk, âYou are a loserâŚ You will
never amount to anything... This is all in your headâŚCome on, snap out of it.â
Your mind goes on and on. You do not want to admit to anyone that you are not
feeling well and so you end up self-medicating with distractions â watching TV,
going on social media, going for an outing. You end up pretending to be happy.
You think the pain is gone but it has not. You have covered it up probably with
an addiction. The pain is there. It is dormant but it is there. When it
awakens, it will demand for food. The food will be your negative thought or
emotion, or other peopleâs reactions. When the pain is being fed, you are not
conscious. Somehow the pain possesses you then. The result is drama. You blame
others for how they make you feel and your feeling then is the consequence of
believing the story in your head.
Psychologists have used four experiments to
discover how people get over emotional or physical pain. In their paper When Hurt Will Not Heal: Exploring the
Capacity to Relieve Social and Physical Pain, the authors propose
discoveries suggesting social or emotional pain is as real as physical pain.
Participants were asked by the researchers to relieve their past painful
experiences by writing in detail what had happened and how they had felt. In
the first two studies, students were asked to relive both emotional and
physical pain, answering a series of questions and then recalling in detail an
experience of betrayal by a person who was close to them, or both. Each
experience was to have occurred in the previous five years. The students were
asked to note how long ago the event happened, how much it hurt at the time,
how many times they had talked about the experience, and how painful the
experience felt now. The researchers from Purdue University in the US and
Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales in Australia found
that participants in the emotional pain condition reported higher levels of
pain than participants in the physical pain condition. The students also
reported less pain when they relived the experience than they had reported
before writing the account.
Participants were given cognitive tasks with
different levels of difficulty after reliving a socially or physically painful
event in experiments three and four. Those in the emotional pain condition
performed worse than those thinking about physical injury.
Dr. Kip Williams from Purdue, one of the
authors, said, âWhile both types of pain can hurt very much at the time they
occur, social pain has the unique
ability to come back over and over again, whereas physical pain lingers only as
an awareness that it was indeed at one time painful.
âWhy arenât we always suffering pain by
recollections of social betrayal and other forms of social pain? Because we are
pretty good at keeping these memories at bay.
âWe had to induce our participants to think
about the details of the social painful event in order to get them to feel pain
at the present. Merely saying, âOh yeah, my boyfriend cheated on me onceâŚâ is
insufficient to cause current pain. They have to steep themselves in the
memory, and thatâs something we donât ordinarily do.â