merricatk: (no safe places)
[personal profile] merricatk
I'm fascinated by how our brains work, particularly the difference between how they really work and how we think they work/how we expect them to work. (I was telling my cousin Patrick the other day how I thought they should amend the laws on hit-and-run accidents that involve only property damage. The urge to run when you've hit a tree or a mailbox is perfectly understandable, and I think that as long as the offender turns themself in within an hour, they shouldn't be considered to have broken a law. Of course, I've always thought that adding time to a prisoner's sentence for trying to break out of prison is ridiculous. Breaking out is the natural thing to do. But I digress.)

One thing I've found in my reading is how the part of the mammal brain that experiences physical pain overlaps with the part that experiences emotional pain, particularly the pain of being rejected or excluded. Using the word pain for how someone rejected you isn't metaphorical, it's literal.

We're very quick to separate the physical from the emotional, and to downplay the emotional. Causing someone emotional pain is brushed aside, it's a guilt-free zone. Maybe it wasn't very nice, but nobody was actually hurt. We're all just just strangers on the internet, if you can't take it, you shouldn't post, what do you care what these people think anyway? Nobody's telling you not to write. (They're only hurting you, and threatening to hurt you more if you don't comply.)

What do you care what these people think anyway? I have an answer to that one.

Leary and colleagues have proposed ‘sociometer theory’ to explain why self-esteem appears to be crucial for psychological health [48,49], maintaining that self-esteem is a measure of the degree to which an individual is included or excluded by others. Because of the importance of social ties for human survival, it is important to be able to monitor one’s acceptance or rejection within a social group. In the same manner that a fuel gauge provides a readout of the amount of gas in a car to prevent empty tanks, self-esteem might provide a read-out of a person’s inclusionary status to prevent exclusion [48].

Several studies have provided direct evidence for this theory showing that increasing degrees of rejection are associated with more negative self-feelings and reductions in self-esteem [48,49]. Additionally, being socially ostracized or excluded during a computerized, interactive ball-tossing game (Cyberball) played over the internet, ostensibly with others, causes reductions in self-esteem [50]. Perhaps most surprising, though, is that even when participants are told they are playing with a computer program and that the computerized players are going to stop throwing the ball to them, participants still report lower self-esteem following the game [51]. Similarly, in an fMRI study of social exclusion [24], participants were prevented from playing a ball-tossing game, ostensibly because of technical difficulties, in an ‘implicit exclusion’ condition. Participants watched the others play the game without them, in what looked like exclusion, although participants consciously knew the other players were not excluding them. Nevertheless, implicit exclusion produced dACC activity indistinguishable from explicit exclusion. These studies suggest that the capacity for social exclusion to cause social pain and decrease self-esteem might be so powerful that simply viewing a scene that bears a resemblance to rejection produces these effects. Just as conscious knowledge of a visual illusion does not prevent it from occurring, conscious knowledge that one is not actually being actively excluded does not prevent dACC activity or diminished self-esteem. [For full text, see] [I had read about this before, in a book I can't recall the title of, but I found the above on Google, by searching physical pain caused by being ignored.] [I also found a link that said that acetaminophen can help with feelings of rejection, because it is a pain reliever and this is an actual, physical pain.]

I have no illusions that this will do anything in regards to people being kinder or gentler to each other online, that it will prevent people from dogpiling, that it will make one person think differently about how they behave. The people who do this are so much in the right, how could it stop them, or even cause them to hesitate? Not to mention how much fun it is. Being part of the mob feels good, that's why we do it. It's like being in the KKK without having to wash the smell of gasoline from your sheets.

I'm posting this for the people who experience it, who are then told the lie that nothing was done to them when they can feel the pain. Listen to me. The pain you're feeling is real. It's the pain of being excluded, and it is all in your head--all in your brain, where the pain receptors are located. It's important to understand that, to know what you're feeling is real, and to know why you feel it. Once you have that, you can decide what to do next.

Date: 2010-06-22 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is all exactly why I constantly edit my blog. I rethink stuff I've posted. Emotional pain IS physical pain. It has a physical impact.

Date: 2010-06-27 12:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's such a relief to really *know* that instead of just intuiting it. I find it comforting how many of the things I've always believed are really true. *g*

Date: 2010-06-22 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is the most compelling argument I've ever heard for treating bullying as a real crime with real victims. I don't care if someone cries because they are physically hurt or mentally hurt, they are still crying. Why is there any distinction? Hurt is hurt.

I felt this lesson wholly at an early age, about second grade or so, when a mob of young kids from my class teased a girl because she was heavy. I saw the mob and wandered over. I was only about seven or eight, so you must excuse my confusion at the time, but I was caught up in it, and I yelled along with them. Afterward, I was so very ashamed that I almost couldn't breathe. No one else seemed to be, but my empathy was playing overtime. After school, I walked to the girl's house where I have never been before (the opposite direction from home) and knocked on the door. Remember, I'm little, and only about seven or eight. I did this all by myself. Her mom answered. I asked to see the girl. Her mom hesitated, saying her daughter didn't want to see anyone. I insisted. I was allowed to enter the home and go into the living room where the girl was sitting on the couch slumped and dejected and depressed, watching TV. She did not even look up. I walked up to her and told her, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I hope you can forgive me." She said nothing. I did not get forgiveness. But I still stood there for awhile watching her, feeling so awful that there was nothing I could do to fix it at all. Not ever. Finally, I walked out and walked home. I confessed to my mom. She told me I did the "right thing" but I was so mortified at myself. I realized we all have that nastiness inside ourselves but I had a choice to act or not act on the feeling. Needless to say, I never again teased another schoolmate. I'm not saying I'm perfect or that I don't say things I regret in anger, but I am not nor have I ever been a bully.

Date: 2010-06-27 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are a very special, self-aware person. We all do awful things, but most of us never realize honestly feel them.

When I was in the 5th grade there were a couple of boys who picked on me all year. I'd just gotten braces, etc., etc.

Later on, when we were in high school (different ones), my parents and I used to go to his parents' restaurant, a cafeteria. He sometimes worked the serving line, and one night when we were there, he apologized for having been mean to me.

It had been years, and he was hardly the worst offender in my line, so forgiving him was easy.

And I'd be willing to bet that your schoolmate remembers your brave apology, and probably wishes she'd done something different.

Date: 2010-06-27 05:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It is a good story to hear that guy apologized to you for teasing you in fifth grade. I hate to think that is a rare occurrence, but I'm afraid it might be since so many people do not want to take any responsibility for their actions even as grown ups.

I think a little bit of fighting and name-calling as kids is somewhat normal...we all go through a "growing up" process and learning to deal with heavy insecurities and emotions. My brother and I fought a lot with each other until we turned about 13 (he's a year younger) and suddenly it stopped. We became good friends. (He's the Andy Rathbone who writes the Windows for Dummies books and is a millionaire because of it...the twerp. He's also a Terranova type...thick black hair, pale blue eyes, olive skin and 6'2" with natural leanness. We all hate him.)

Self-awareness is also conscience. Boy did I have one hell of a conscience at an early age. And we weren't religious so it wasn't because of that. It was just me (and reinforcements from mom who put up with no bs.)

Also, at 13, I became a "Trekkie" and that was a very unpopular thing to be in the 70s. It was considered very "uncool." Not like today. My solution? Form a Star Trek club. Which I did with my friend Kym and the help of a really cool teacher. Kids came out of the woodwork to join. I made friendships that have lasted to this day. We all had bullies who picked on us, but as a group we hung out and ate lunch together (there were usually a minimum of ten of us at all times) and it's very hard for bullies to accomplish anything against ten kids who have become more secure because of a sudden, good social support system and just laugh back at them for their antics. The bullies used to throw wild berries at us at lunch. We would just frown at them and shake our heads and after doing that about twice they seemed to realize how pathetic they were against us and left us alone.

To this day, I credit Star Trek with saving me in my awkward, insecure teen years. Everyone needs a passion. Instead of turning to shoplifting, smoking, drinking, drugs, this one turned out to be intellectually and socially healthy.

Date: 2011-10-03 10:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
how can people say that? ive heard stories about family pets being left behind while the family goes on vacation, and dying from lonliness (my sister's poodle) and my stepdad (but i call him dad) says him and my stepsibs went on vacation and left their dog at a friend's house. when they came back, the dog ignored them, rolled his eyes at them when they said a command ("sit boy!" dog: *yeah, right.*) and other stuff, and they had to give him away.
so, if scientists and stuff can tell that animals can feel rejection and lonelines, why should people be able to? i read on yahoo once that when people break up, and they say they're heartbroken, sometimes, its literally true.


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