With the age of a digital life in mind, it seems relevant to explore what science knows about emotional pain and its connection to the physical kind.
Language has always mirrored the connection between the two; we suffer from “broken hearts” as well as bones, and speak of bruised feelings caused by the people around us. This all seems intuitively right because we recognize the common basis of the pain we experience, whether a headache or the pain of missing someone so much that you ache.
Is there anyone out there who actually believes your words can hurt someone?
Of course, it certainly doesn’t feel like an advantage, evolutionary or otherwise, when you’re in the throes of emotional devastation—the moment you hear that your ex is madly in love, blissed to the max, and about to get married; when your close friend cuts you off with nary a word of explanation; or at the moment your mother, who never has anything nice to say about you, tells you once again that you’re a horrible disappointment.
While both physical and emotional pain both “hurt,” they seem, on the surface at least, to do so in different ways, right? Well, maybe not as much as we might think. While it’s true that slicing your finger instead of the onion on the cutting board is one kind of experience and being dumped by someone you love is another, there’s evidence that they have more in common than not.
In fact, verbal aggression produced larger effects than familiar physical abuse. There’s evidence too that exposure to verbal abuse in childhood actually alters the structure of the brain. That was also borne out in another study by Dr. Teicher and his colleagues called Hurtful Words. What the researchers found was that especially during the middle school years, when the brain is actively developing, exposure to peer bullying and verbal abuse caused changes to the white matter in the brain.
Just because we can’t see the wounds doesn’t mean they aren’t literally and physically there.Mind you, we are all sensitive to social exclusion, but to different degrees.Emotional or physical, pain hurts more when it’s deliberately inflicted.
At first glance, this statement seems just like a validation of something everyone knows already but it’s an important thing to remember in the digital age when it’s often not clear whether the person is deliberately rejecting you (“Did he/she really not see the text I sent three hours ago?”) or when a “conversation” that is conducted without the benefit of tone, nuance, or facial expressions goes badly.
It feels same as you reading a text from someone you care about telling you they no longer regard your friendship,this words can go a long way to affect you and those around you. Let us be mindful of our choice of words.