The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
… Physical pain and social pain are processed in some of the same regions of the brain. Physical pain has two aspects: the sensory experience of pain and the emotional component, in which your brain decides how negative or distressing the pain is. It is the latter that is shared with social pain, although some research has suggested that severe social rejection, like being dumped, can also be processed in the part of your brain that handles the sensory component of pain.
People who are more sensitive to physical pain are also more sensitive to social pain; they feel more rejected after completing a social exclusion task, in which the other two players in a computer version of catch refuse to share the ball. One study even found that people who took Tylenol for three weeks reported less hurt feelings than people who took a placebo. Even Eisenberger was surprised by that. “It follows in a logical way from the argument that the physical and social pain systems overlap, but it’s still kind of hard to imagine,” she says. “We take Tylenol for physical pain; it’s not supposed to work on social pain.” …
The research validates the hurt feelings of people who have been socially rejected, Eisenberger says. “We seem to hold physical pain in higher regard than social pain,” she says. While bystanders understand that physical pain hurts and can be debilitating, the same empathy doesn’t always extend to people feeling social pain. “The research is sort of validating. It suggests that there is something real about this experience of pain that we have following rejection and exclusion.”
Rather than damage your stomach with Tylenol, the pain of rejection and most other emotional pain can be reduced or eliminated simply by changing the way you interpret events.
… differences exist between pessimists and optimists in terms of explanatory style:
- Permanence: Optimistic people believe bad events to be more temporary than permanent and bounce back quickly from failure, whereas others may take longer periods to recover or may never recover. They also believe good things happen for reasons that are permanent, rather than seeing the transient nature of positive events. Optimists point to specific temporary causes for negative events; pessimists point to permanent causes.
- Pervasiveness: Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, whereas pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. Optimistic people also allow good events to brighten every area of their lives rather than just the particular area in which the event occurred.
- Personalization: Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves for events that occur. Optimists are therefore generally more confident. Optimists also quickly internalize positive events while pessimists externalize them.
The optimist’s outlook on failure can thus be summarized as “What happened was an unlucky situation (not personal), and really just a setback (not permanent) for this one, of many, goals (not pervasive)”.
Try this shift in your thinking. Make anything negative temporary, limited, and non-personal.