We tend to monitor our body and physical health more than our emotional health. For example, we get annual physical exams, but the idea of a "psychological check-up" is completely foreign to us.
We know that if a small physical injury like a cut becomes more painful over time, it indicates a more serious infection. But if failing to get a promotion at work still causes emotional pain weeks later, we don't realize that we might become depressed.
We tend to react more proactively to physical pain than to emotional pain. However, beyond a catastrophic injury or illness, emotional pain often has a far greater impact on our lives than physical pain. Here are five reasons why emotional pain is worse than physical pain:
1. Memories can cause emotional pain, but not physical pain: recalling the time you broke your leg won't hurt your leg, but recalling the time you were rejected by your high school crush will. Emotional pain. Our ability to evoke emotional pain simply by remembering painful events is profound, in contrast to our complete inability (thankfully) to re-experience physical pain.
2. We use physical pain to distract from emotional pain and vice versa: Some teenagers and adults practice "cutting" (slicing) their flesh ostensibly with a blade) because the physical pain it causes distracts them from emotional pain force so that they can be relieved. But the reverse is not true, which is why we rarely see a woman choosing to ease the pain of natural childbirth by rereading her rejection letter from the college of her choice. Unfortunately, while we may prefer physical pain to emotional pain, others view our pain differently.
3. Physical pain elicits more sympathy from others than emotional pain: When we see a stranger hit by a car, we frown, gasp, or even scream and run to see if they are OK. But when we see strangers being bullied or laughed at, we're less likely to do any of these things. Research finds that we consistently underestimate the emotional pain of others, but underestimate their physical pain. Furthermore, these empathy gaps for emotional pain were reduced only when we ourselves had recently experienced similar emotional pain.
4. Emotional pain is not the same as physical pain: If you were enjoying a romantic lobster dinner with your partner on Valentine's Day when you got the call that your parent had died, it might be years before you could enjoy lobster or Valentine's Day without becoming extremely sad. However, if you break your foot while playing softball in an amateur league, you'll likely be able to return to the field once you've fully recovered. Physical pain often leaves little reverberation (unless the injury is emotionally traumatic), whereas emotional pain leaves behind a wealth of reminders, associations, and triggers that can reactivate our pain when we When you meet them.
5. Emotional pain, not physical pain, damages our self-esteem and long-term mental health: physical pain would have to be severe to affect our character and damage our mental health (again, unless the situation also causes emotional Trauma), but even a single episode of emotional pain can take a toll on our emotional health. For example, failing a college exam can cause anxiety and fear of failure, a painful rejection can lead to years of avoidance and loneliness, bullying in middle school can make us shy and introverted as adults, and a critical boss can be damaging our capabilities. self-esteem for years to come.
All of these are reasons why we should focus on and care about our emotional health just as much (if not more) than our physical health. Alas, we rarely do. While we take action at the first sign of a runny nose or a sprained muscle, we rarely "treat" common emotional hurts like rejection, failure, guilt, feelings of brooding or loneliness when we sustain them. While we immediately apply antibacterial ointment to a cut or scrape, when our self-esteem is low, we do little to enhance or protect it.