Why does emotional pain hurt physically?

Ever received bad news and felt sick to your stomach? Stubbed your toe, hopped around and gotten angry?

Experienced a break-up and felt it, not just in your mind, but in your body?


Here’s the thing…

Pain is always a physical and emotional experience

It’s just easier to explain physical pain. You break your arm and it’s obvious with an X-ray. You trip and fall, and you can point to the blood or the bruise.

But when you get your heart broken, it’s a little more difficult to provide the evidence.

However, recent studies have shown, that whether people feel emotional, or physical pain, the same areas of the brain get activated. So whether you spill hot soup on your leg, or lose a loved one, similar areas of the brain are triggered and pain results.

How is my brain connected with the rest of my body?

What most of us don’t realize, is that the brain is massively interconnected with the rest of the body – and it’s virtually impossible to hide pain, be it physical or emotional.

Even if you try to push down your emotions, your nervous system is triggered and will respond. Though you may attribute the symptoms to something else.

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Think of pain as a wave

Imagine pain, physical or emotional, as a wave. Try to contain that wave and it crashes around (think of a wave pool). Allow that wave to flow, and it eventually dissipates and loses it’s power.

Often our response to pain of any kind is to hold it in. We hold our breath or brace against it – which often intensifies the pain. If you can breathe through it and feel the depth and breadth of it, it will move through you much more easily.

Physical pain is much easier to let go of. You trip and fall. It’s obvious what you’ve done and you simply reacted. You may have braced for the fall with your hands, and thus scraped up your palms or hit your knees. After the fall, you get up and assess the damage. Hospital worthy? Or just a plaster or bandage?

Emotional pain isn’t as simple as physical pain

Emotional pain is a bit trickier. If you’re moving through an unwanted break up or trying to negotiate a stressful job, you may avoid the pain or act as if you don’t care.

This doesn’t mean that the pain leaves the body though.

It can (and will) show itself in other ways. You may throw out your back (physical pain!) or get a rash, come down with a cold or be overcome with exhaustion.

Be mindful

The key in all pain is to to be mindful. Pay attention. If you can, become present to the pain and slow down. Take a deep breath and notice or even name what’s happening.

When you become clear on what the pain is, what caused it and why, you can move forward with intention, and hopefully release some of the pain in your body.

Have you ever had emotional pain show up in your body in a physical way? Please share in the comments. I’d love to know!

Read more from WatchFit Expert Beth Cline

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