I was checking out the OCD center of Los Angeles blog, and they discussed some great research on the genetic link between physical pain and the pain of social rejection.
"Researchers already knew from previous studies that the gene, called OPRM1, regulates the body’s internal painkillers, known as mu-opioids. In layman’s terms, the presence of this gene variation results in people actually feeling more pain in response to being physically hurt. What is so interesting about the new study is that researchers discovered this same gene variation also appears to regulate the level of distress felt if one is socially hurt."
So the researchers did some tests on people, using an MRI to scan the brain and various levels of physical and emotional pain were inflicted. The findings backed up the genetic information - the same brain centers that lit up during a poke or a prod lit up when the subject was emotionally hurt.
This is interesting to me, because a lot of my worry lies in fear of rejection. So am I experiencing a heightened response to all pain, emotional and otherwise, due to a genetic predisposition?
Well, maybe. My first thought was about how sensitive I am to spicy foods, and how all I feel is pain as a hot pepper hits my tongue. Other who relish some flaming cayenne can't seem to get it.
"It hurts?" they ask in wonder. And I simply don't understand the spicy "flavor" they talk about.
We have genetically different tongues. One tastes a pepper, one feels pain. And no matter how poetic I get, I can't really make they understand, because they can never taste what I taste.
Are emotions like this? Its hard to explain just why I feel so hurt when my work isn't perfect to most people. They don't "get" why is matters so deeply to me. Maybe they just weren't built to feel that kind of pain.
But I do know one thing- pain can be overcome. Tolerances can be built. I made a effort, at the behest of a Indian Buffet loving friend- to build up some chops for curry. So little by little, I ate some spicy. I dealt with the pain, trying to feel it in a different way. And you know, even if I'll never ask for extra Jalapenos, I can tolerate a good Massaman.
If I can train my taste buds, maybe I can train my mental pain genes in the same way. And while I'll never enjoy rejection or emotional pain, I can at least get less afriad of the flavor.