Dealing With Emotional Wounds
If one gets physically wounded, one knows what to expect. If a dog bites us, we feel the pain. It helps us to deal with the pain when we know exactly what has caused our pain. We also know that after a while the intensity of the pain will go down. We know this because we have experienced similar situations earlier in our life. We have injured ourselves many times. We all have hit our toe to a sharp edge and felt the piercing pain that follows. We all know that the intensity of the pain will decrease after couple seconds.
It is a different situation with emotional pain. When one does not see the wound it is difficult to judge the nature and seriousness of one’s condition. When we hit our toes, we feel strong pain, but we do not see blood, so we know the situation is not (necessarily) serious, even though there is strong pain. When we feel hurt emotionally, there are no clear visible marks either. So we tend to think our wounds are not very serious in a physiological sense. However, we do feel strong pain, which conflicts with the fact that there are no visible signs of injury.
Often one does not fully understand the nature of emotional pain, and hence cannot estimate how serious mental wounds are and predict how long the pain is going to last. Instead one receives conflicting information regarding one’s condition. This makes emotional pain dangerous. To read more about how to get over emotional pain due to problems in a relationship by teaching the brain and the mind to overcome negative emotions, please visit page Recovery After Cheating and Narcissism.
Emotional wounds can be very deep and take long time to heal. It makes situation worse if one is underestimating the seriousness of one’s condition and tries to deny the existence of the mental wounds. It is often difficult for others around the wounded person to help, because it is not always easy to see the seriousness of one’s condition. We are often capable of fooling others very skillfully with our behavior. We smile and laugh even though we hurt inside.
Understanding the biological basis of emotional pain
It is important to understand that one can influence one’s emotions with one’s own behavior. If one dwells in sadness and stays in bed all day long, one can be sure that one shall feel miserable. But if one instead forces oneself to laugh and make jokes, towards the end of the day one starts to feel better. Why does this happen? Let us examine this question in more detail.
Laughing, jokes and smiling usually follow the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are related to regulation of the mood. As a result of the fact that these events (laughing and release of certain neurotransmitters) usually occur in the same time, an association is created between the events. In this context “association” refers to physiological linking between these events. To read more about this topic, please visit page Controlling Emotions. Let me now explain why associations are useful tools when one is trying to get over cheating or any other traumatic event in life.
Conditioning – Tool to teach the brain to work in a new way
A good example that helps to understand the nature of associations is the famous case of Pavlov’s dogs, an example that is nowadays used in all basic neuroscience textbooks. Pavlov was a scientist who among other things studied a phenomena called conditioning. In his studies Pavlov utilized the fact that dogs salivate when they smell the food. In the beginning of his experiment Pavlov always rang a bell just before he gave food to his dogs. He repeated this many times and soon dogs learned to associate the ringing of the bell with the food, and started to salivate when they heard the bell even if there was no scent of food present.
This is a good example of conditioning. Salivating is a physiological process that is not under voluntary control. In Pavlov’s experiment he was able to create a physiological link between a certain physiological process (secretion of saliva) and a certain stimuli (ringing of the bell). As a result of this coupling dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard the bell.
Same thing happens if we dwell on negative thoughts and emotions after finding out about cheating and betrayal. If we do not break the negative feedback cycle, eventually it is very difficult to let go of anger and hurt. For example, if the Lover of our husband has red hair, whenever we see a woman with red hair we feel strong pain, because we are reminded of the betrayal. In order to heal after cheating we must learn to break this cycle. To read about this topic in more detail, please visit page Controlling Emotions.
Overcoming emotional pain – Scientific approach
Two different functions can be coupled in neuronal level in such a way that if one or the functions gets “activated”, that triggers also the other function that is associated with it. In neuronal level this triggering works in both directions. A good example of this is an association between the name and the face of a person. When we see a picture of our friend Bob, we often think of his name (even if we do not actively think of the name, we can retrieve it from our memory whenever we want). Visual stimuli (picture of Bob) is strongly coupled with auditory stimuli (Bob’s name). When one of the stimuli is presented to us, that activates certain neuronal networks that are related to the other stimuli. This is possible because there is strong physiological association between these two functions (recollection of name and face).
Previous example makes it easier to understand why one’s mood starts to improve if one laughs, smiles and makes jokes even though one is hurting inside. There is a strong association between the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and laughing and smiling. When we feel happy, certain neurotransmitters are released in our brain, triggering laughter and smile. Due to association between these two processes, when one smiles and laughs (for long enough), the biochemistry in one’s brain starts to change towards the state in which the brain normally is when person is happy. In a way we can “fool” our brain to think we are happy and hence release neurotransmitters that are present in our system when we are genuinely happy. Release of these happiness-related neurotransmitters in the brain makes us feel better.
Of course it is clear to everyone that if we feel extremely sad, no matter how much or for how long we laugh, we shall not feel perfectly good. But we do feel better. That is the most important thing. We need to take small steps before we can take big ones. To read more about how to get over emotional pain caused by cheating and narcissism in a relationship, please visit page Recovery After Cheating and Narcisism.