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Love hurts, love wounds

On April 1st, 2011

A study caught my eye this week that underscores the powerful connection between us.  It concerned the emotional pain of rejection, and social psychologists from the University of Michigan made an extraordinary discovery:  the pain of rejection is not simply an emotional pain, but an actual physical hurt.

Sad splits
In the study, 40 volunteers who’d recently suffered an unwanted break-up were shown photos of their ex-lovers while they were scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging.  Brain activity was discovered to occur in the same regions that get activated when people suffer a physical pain, such as getting punched or holding a hot object. 

The 40 volunteers were instructed to study a photo of their ex and to concentrate on how it felt during the split.

The Michigan scientists then scanned the volunteers after attaching a thermal device to their arms, which was turned up from warm to painfully hot— akin to the pain of holding a hot cup of coffee.

Both situations elicited activity in the brain region associated with pain sensations.   The same areas of the brain – the secondary somatosensory cortex and dorsal posterior insula —  were involved in the emotional as well as physical pain.

Up to now, neuroscientists have believed that the section of the brain involved with the pain of emotion only overlapped that brain region involved with the emotional experience of pain.

 “These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts’,” the scientists wrote.  
 
Chronic pain
The researchers also believe that intense rejection, as occurs during a breakup with a lover, can lead to chronically painful conditions, such as fibromyalgia.  They are also consistent with the idea of ‘embodiment’ – that physical sensations are an integral part of the experience of emotion. 

This latest evidence provides more information about the intrinsic connection we feel with others. We not only mimic others’ emotions, we also feel them deep within our bodies. We are so attuned to the emotional landscape surrounding us that a positive or negative environment affects our bodies and their ability to function.

Natural killer cells – the immune system’s front line of defense against cancer and many viruses — are profoundly reactive to stress in our lives, particularly social stressors.  Large dips in NK cell numbers and activities have been observed during arguments or even minor conflict.

The pain of arguing
A study of couples showed that the stress of reliving an argument delays wound healing by at least a day. In an ingenious study by Ohio State University College of Medicine, the researchers gathered together 42 married couples and inflicted small wounds with a tiny puncture device on one partner of each pair. During the first sessions, the partners held a conflict-free, constructive discussion and the wound healing was carefully timed.

Several months later, the researchers repeated the injury, but this time allowed the partners to raise an ongoing contentious issue, such as money or in-laws. This time, the wounds took a day longer to heal. Among the more hostile couples, the wounds healed at only 60 per cent the rate of the more compatible pairs.

Examination of the fluids in the wounds found different levels of a chemical called interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine and key chemical in the immune system. Among the hostile couples, the levels of interleukin-6 were too low initially and then too high immediately after an argument, suggesting that their immune systems had been overwhelmed.

Emotion and disease
In fact, social stress has been shown to affect the functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis — one of the chief regulators of the body’s ability to fight off disease. Psychologist David Spiegel and his colleagues have found a link between marital discord and negative effects on the cortisol rhythms of the body, which are now considered a risk factor for early cancer mortality.

This type of visceral connection between us – the fact that we ‘feel’ emotions in our bodies – is another instance of nature’s design to reinforce the connection between us. Whether we wish to be or not, we are constantly attuned to the emotional landscape around us.

Here’s a little preview of me speaking to just this point from my new book THE BOND: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63SIr33czTA&feature=player_detailpage

Comments

comments

0 responses to “Love hurts, love wounds”

  1. Wauw, this helps me in my struggle to make people understand how hurtfull words (dr Emoto) and emotional pain can be. In my practice and as a psychiatrisch nurse I always did feel what is written above.
    This is huge...more than we know and it helps me to look for good en funny ways to tell little children about this.

    Thank you Lynn
    x Yvette
    The Netherlands

    • linda says:

      I am excited to see the research being conducted that PROVES what we have known and felt for years.
      Dr. Bruce Lipton wrote in a groundbreaking book about the Biology of Beliefs and Lynn brings us to another
      level of understanding, in how important emotions are in our health. With these tools, I can now bring the
      scientific data to support my claims, and share it with my clients.

      Thank you Lynn

      Linda McCarthy Ph.D

  2. Marieke van Nieuwkuyk says:

    Thank you Lynn for sharing this with us. Now it's clear how it works, it opens ways to deal with it and to act in the right way!

  3. michael cenkner says:

    However what this fails to point out is that we are creating these responses, through our choices about how to interpret situations. We create the feeling of stress whenwe believe, This should not be happening. Instead we can choose to accept without resistance that it is happening (and then respond from there).

    For example, if I'm thinking, she shouldn't have left me, sheshould have treated me better, etc., I can ask myself, is it true she shouldn't have left me? Is it absolutely true she shouldn't haveleft me? What happens when I believe it? Who would I be without that thought? and so on, into self-inquiry.

    There is a radical proposition out there that physical pain is necessary, but mental pain is not.

    Thanks, namaste!

  4. Miranda Robinson says:

    This can go a long way to explain the connection between self-harming and emotional trauma - directly replacing the emotional pain with a physical one is easier for some to deal with. Such an important discovery.

  5. Imrana says:

    Thanks indeed Lynn!! but my dear, set aside this research.......in few cases it's more than emotional, and physical pain.

    Take care dear!

  6. AdG says:

    Having watched the Living Matrix and having read many articles on this subject; having been involved with EFT and from my own personal experiences (my WPW only acts up when I am truly stressed) I can say that I am not surprised to read this. Body, mind and spirit act together as one unified unit. When there is a disruption in this basic harmony structure, we see phenomena like this. This research is important to show that we as humans are not just physical matter entities, but a whole lot more, and that the theory of materialistic by chance evolution needs some serious adjustments! The more science can defeat its own old theories, the better it is for the world! This adjustment will not come easily, for it surely is part of a larger cultural and values war.

  7. Dean Shrock says:

    Lynn, This is a great post! Your blogs and bulletin serve such a valuable service. I used to subscribe to the late Marilyn Ferguson's Brain/Mind Bulletin in the 80s and 90s, and so miss her helping me stay up to date with the latest mind-body studies and their implications. Thank you for your dedication, thoroughness, and ability to clarify issues and concepts that are extremely important for all of our welfare. My best to you and Bryan, Dean

  8. I would be interested to see a study of this nature (physical pain and break-ups) spliced together with a study on perception of pain. That is, I think that pain is a perception and not necessarily a consequence of the termination of a relationship. So, even if someone was with their partner for years and they break-up, it may not be painful because they perceived it that way. However, to someone else in a relationship that was, say, shorter in length, could perceive the ending of the relationship as catastrophic.

    With Love and Gratitude,

    Jeremiah

    • samma meijer says:

      I thought that both fysical and emotional pain experience were dealt with in the same part of the brain, this is w hat I read. The work of Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness and meditation practice, in research have proven to both bring change to the view and experience of pain. As I read: "Suffering= pain x resistance."
      So I think both kinds of pain, fysically and mentallly originated, are experienced by the brain and are interdependent. And since the neuropathways in the brain have plasticity, the experience of pain will differ due to biological, both fysical and mental make up.
      You are right it would be great to combine those researches. The change in peception will chang the brain is also, this kind of research seems really helpful.

  9. JC says:

    Breakthrough research. I hope this will lead to an understanding of how to counteract this type of pain.
    Recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the medical profession seems at a loss when faced with this condition.

    I am an experienced meditator, 20 years plus, although the fibromyalgia has developed despite the meditation. Meditation is one of the complementary therapies that medical doctors suggest may help sufferers of this condition, and I will soon complete an accredited meditation teacher training course. I began the training before the diagnosis of the fibromyalgia, and this has now led me to a specific area of interest as I am hoping to be able to teach others to better manage their pain and state of mind.

    This condition as I have experienced it has been slowly developing for some years, and is now obvious in its manifestation.Doctors have been at a loss to explain the individual aches and pains and symptoms as they developed over the years and have only recently looked at the whole picture. There is no denying that I have experienced a lot of stress and emotional pain in my life, and this was one of the reasons that led me meditation in the first place, as well as a compulsion to explore my spiritual nature - the 'being' part of the whole human if you like. Meditation changed my life and probably saved my life, as initially it gave me a sense of empowerment, of taking back control and responsibility when I felt helpless, frightened, desperate and at rock bottom. It enabled me to overcome depression, anxiety and panic attacks and released me from anti depressants and anti anxiety medication, and enriched my life on many levels.

    This diagnosis of fibromyalgia is my latest challenge. As a meditator I am not keen to take the medication prescribed which adds to the 'brain fog' that happens on some days, anlthough I am unable to go to work without painkillers most days. The painkillers have nasty side effects and only take the edge off the pain and never eliminate it. The standard treatment seems to be anti depressants, but I am not depressed and have no desire to mess around with my brain chemistry.

    I look forward to further developments in this area. I am working on a specific meditation/visualisation technique as I am determined to reverse and eliminate this condition in myself, and from a personal point of view, if I can visualise what has taken place on a physical level I can visualise a reversal and or elimination of the causes at an energy level. I find that the traditional healing/energy meditations ( I use chakra and qigong ) and positive affirmations are only partly effective, and it is my aim to completely eliminate this condition from my life. If I can do this then I can help others to find their own holistic approach to regaining their health.

    I sincerely hope to be able to develop something worthwhile to be able to help people with this debilitating condition. Anyone out there who has experience of, or an interest in meditation and fibromyalgia please feel free to contact me, jcole.oz@hotmail.com

    • Samma Meijer says:

      I love this book: Living well with pain and illness, from Vidyamala Burch.
      I am a long time meditator and meditation teacher and have been suffering from chronica bronchitis most of my life and also had breastcancer during a long retreat.
      Healing is a very deep and intrinsic process for me, mostly coming down to opening my heart to myself and others, deeper and deeper. Mindfulness training has further supported me and supports me still to keep my mind open and fresh.
      I live in the Netherlands and hope to help a lot of people living with disease with mindfulness training.
      Good journey to you!

  10. Enid Pennel says:

    Lynne.......when one has experinced what you are saying, my thoughts go to the eternal, grateful thanks to God for my being able to recognise God in my life, have an acquaintenance with Him and have Him as a Friend.
    Thank you, I have all your books and hope to soon have the 'Bond'
    Enid

  11. Sadashiv says:

    I think unconditional love and non-judgmental mindset is the solution to avoid this pain.

  12. John says:

    Lynn, I am a huge fan. I have come to the belief that my emotions are an indicator of the direction that a thought or action is going. In other words, that knot in my solar plexus tells me that what ever I am thinking about in that moment is not what my inner being is thinking about' a misalignment. So ignoring that eventually leads to other signs of seperation from my inner being (higherself or God) resulting in various diseases. When a thought creates a feeling of joy then I move in the direction of that. There is no other better source of well being than paying attention to how you feel. I suppose you could say that our emotions are our 6th sense. All the answers to all our questions lie within, just Ask and you shall receive. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  13. [...] De afgelopen zaterdag ging het over (ongeveer) precies hetzelfde in de blog post van Lynne McTaggart, alleen dan wetenschappelijk. In Michigan hebben wetenschappers geconstateerd [...]

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