Self Sacrifice Can Make You Sick

Self sacrifice is very hard to escape.

It is so conditioned into us that whether you are an HSP or non-HSP doesn’t matter. You are subject to the expectation.

Self sacrifice carried to an extreme will make you sick, emotionally and physically.

Why is self-sacrifice such a problem?

Self-Sacrifice Solves A Lot Of Problems

Self sacrifice solves so many problems:

  • if there are scarce resources, self-sacrifice ensures that there is “enough”
  • if someone is abusive, expecting self-sacrifice from victims “erases” a problem and injustice
  • if life is unfair, it is because self-sacrifice is your “lot” in life
  • if the system does not work, self-sacrifice enables us to avoid dealing with the problem
  • expectations of self-sacrifice ensure that social inequities remain in place by allocating support only to some
  • expectations of self-sacrifice maintain unequal relationships and relationships that are one-way streets. They maintain power imbalances and the status quo.

How Self-Sacrifice Affects An Individual

Self sacrifice feels devastating to the individual who experiences it. It is more than feeling like you are less than others. It is a way of appropriating the life force of one individual for the benefit of others.

For highly sensitive people for whom emotional vampires are a danger, a life of self-sacrifice can be even crueler since you are being both emotionally and usually physically exploited without any hope for reciprocity and care.

People stuck in self-denying situations often feel angry depleted and robbed of their lives.

They are right!

Self Sacrifice Destroys Relationships

Self sacrifice is culturally conditioned. That means it is expected and is often the basis of social and familial approval.

When such an arrangement is socially supported, change becomes more difficult, because the social support for change is not there. Generally, some people benefit from the arrangement and therefore will not want to end it.

A sacrificing arrangement takes away the power from the person who is sacrificing because it is in the nature of the relationships to deny the validity of any claims from the individual who is being used. That is why many people who have been in self-sacrificing situations will feel rage and powerlessness at the same time: two uncomfortable emotions and even more hurtful together.

An unequal self-sacrificing relationship is set by expectation and social custom, therefore, it is not always possible to negotiate a better arrangement, and if improvements are possible they are often hard won and hard maintained.

Without appearing too gloomy, it is important, to be honest about the deep difficulties faced by those individuals and groups whose lives have been damaged by individual, group and systemic exploitation. When you grasp and feel the intractability of racism and sexism, you can have some compassion for those recovering from those forms of discrimination.

Self-sacrifice may be physically and emotionally devastating to the victim, but it is also spiritually damaging, even more so for the perpetrator than the victim, although both are harmed, nonetheless.

Changing Your Life

Changing your life to one of healthy living and wellbeing is very challenging. It is important to treat oneself with respect during the difficult process of change.

People who seek more equal and more respectful relationships are often considered troublemakers, and misanthropes by those who gain from the inequity.

We see this resistance to change all over as our world gradually evolves to one where individuals share the world more fully. As desirable as equality is, it takes time to make a transition to an equality based life and can take a long time depending on the support that you have and receive.

As individuals recovering from racism can attest, the road to full acceptance can be a long one.

There are steps you can take to make the process easier:

  1. assess your skills and resources
  2. develop skills so that you can survive in the world
  3. determine what your basic necessities are and get them met s that you need as little as possible during the process of creating a self-respecting life for yourself.
  4. find support among people who share your desire and vision for a better way of life
  5. expect the process of change to take time
  6. honor yourself for making the journey

Developing a self-respecting life is a hero’s journey. Those who undertake it deserve compassion and respect.

Workplace Bullying: A Survival Guide

Unfortunately, difficult economic conditions can increase the negative behaviors that people will tolerate in order to keep their jobs. If you ever find yourself the target of workplace bullying, it is important to have strategies to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being.

If You Experience Workplace Bullying

If you are being bullied at work:

  • Don’t deny the problem. It is important to recognize when you are being bullied and to take steps to protect yourself.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Workplace bullying is usually about control and rarely has anything to do with you personally.
  • Get help.
    • Check your company’s policy. Are there any guidelines or protocols that address workplace bullying? Is there a resource person that you can talk to about the situation?
    • Contact your employee assistance group, if one is available. These groups are confidential and may be able to advise you. As an added bonus, your request for assistance can help document your experience of being bullied.
    • Reach out to family, friends, and/or a professional counselor.
  • Create a paper trail of the bully’s “bad behavior” and your “good behavior”. For example, if you receive a threatening phone call from the bully. Don’t call the bully back and subject yourself to further abuse. Instead, respond to the call via email, reiterating the bully’s threats and formulating your own professional response. If the bully ignores your work-related requests, send an email indicating that you haven’t received a response and copy others.
  • If you choose to confront the bully’s bad behavior, always do it in writing. State your concerns in an email, and keep it professional. Indicate that you are raising your concerns in an effort to work better together.
  • Exercise caution when confiding in your co-workers. Be careful about saying things to others that you don’t want to get back to the bully. The last thing you want to do is provide evidence against yourself. Also, some co-workers won’t want to be put in the middle, in which case you should respect their wishes and seek support elsewhere.
  • Be impeccable. Keep your performance level high, and play strictly by the rules. This is often the best defense against someone who is trying to sabotage your success.
  • Maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. While this will be very difficult to do, it will show the bully that his or her campaign is not having the desired effect, which is sometimes the best revenge. (One caution though, some bullies may respond by escalating their campaigns.)
  • Do not lose your temper. Always behave in a professional manner, regardless of how the bully is behaving. Not only will feel better about yourself, but it will also prevent the bully from gathering ammunition against you.
  • Be proactive. Bullying behaviors are repetitive and often predictable. Do your best to anticipate the bully’s behavior, and have an action plan ready. Try to stay one step ahead of the bully.
  • Take care of yourself. Relish your downtime. Relax, and do things you enjoy. Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing signs of stress or other medical issues.
  • Update your resume, and keep your eye out for other jobs. It is empowering to know that you have other choices and that you don’t need to tolerate a hostile work environment. You should also realize that many workplace bullying situations can never be satisfactorily resolved. It’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes.

How To Report Bullying

If you decide to report the bullying:

  • Keep a written diary that details the nature of the bullying (e.g. dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present).
  • Maintain copies of harassing/bullying paper trails, such as emails, and save threatening voice messages. You should also hold on to copies of documents that contradict the bully’s accusations against you (e.g. time sheets, audit reports, etc.)
  • Keep a list of people you think may have observed the bullying. Find out if any of those people would be willing to speak on your behalf.
  • Make a list of all the efforts you made to work the situation out (e.g. emails, phone calls, requests for help from HR or Employee Assistance)
  • If you are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the bullying, get a documentation from your doctor.
  • Report the behavior to an appropriate person or department, such as Human Resources or your Union Representative. Be prepared to present your case and back it up with plenty of documentation and evidence.

Don’t be a victim. Take a proactive stance to protect yourself. Use this situation to motivate yourself to find a better situation and environment.

Note: This article was first published in Cliff Harwin’s newsletter.

Unfreeze Those Feelings

To a child all feelings may seem huge, since they feel so small – and are. Children are very natural about their feelings. They experience them and let them go. Unfortunately, it does not take long before we learn that our feelings are unwanted and inconvenient. Then we start to reject them and hold them in with all the negative effects that brings.

What Happens To Our Feelings?

Our feelings become objectified. We learn to treat them like objects at a store, some unwanted and others preferred as demonstrated to us by our families and educators.

And so the stress starts. According to Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of Kripalu Yoga in a June, 2010 article in Natural AwakeningsHealing the Root Cause of Addiction with Ayurveda A Natural Cure for Unhealthy Dependence by Linda Sechrist,  

“It is important to recognize that most people don’t know the difference between tension and stress…

He observes that stressors—thoughts and reactions to our lifestyle, relationships, work environment and family life—are introduced through the ego mind. Emotionally charged thoughts and feelings of blame, shame or guilt then get metabolized into our biological body system. Stored in the form of toxins and neuro-glandular imbalances, these feelings create energy blocks that prevent the free flow of energy, or prana, the body’s self-healing wisdom.

Energy blocks may take the form of muscular tensions and weakness in liver, kidney and digestive functions. Gradual decline results in a progressive deterioration of biological processes and consequently can manifest in external symptoms of fatigue, fear, anxiety and insecurity.”

Essentially we are socialized to have certain emotions and reject others and our unwanted emotions then get stuck in our bodies and gradually make us sick.

Why Rejecting Feelings Is A Mistake

When we reject our feelings, we cannot own them and process them.

When we are processing our feelings, we take them in, accept them feel them and listen to them. It is called emotional metabolism.

Metabolism comes from the greek word ” metabole” for change or transformation. At any given time as we interact with our world we are in the process of metabolism – of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, emotions as well as material substances such as food and water.  All forms of life engage in metabolism, from plants to humans.

When we are unable to metabolize a food it will clog our bodies. When we are unable to metabolize or process emotions, they will clog our system as well. Ideally we process all food and experiences each day so that we are in a state of flowing with life. If only it were that simple!

It is often not possible to process all information and feelings when they occur. Some feelings can be part of a larger process.  The grieving process is a good example of that. However, the most difficult situations are those where an acceptable arrangement is not possible – situations that are abusive, demeaning, and dehumanizing –  because the pain of these situations often does long-term damage to the energy of the body, and takes a long time to heal.

Learning To Accept And Release Feelings

It can be useful to think of feelings as information.  When the feelings are the result of a past experience transferred onto the present, it is a sign that there is unfinished business in the past that must be dealt with. Another way of looking at it is that energy has become blocked in the body, it has not been metabolized. Under these circumstances it is our job to accept the feelings so that they can be released.

There are releasing practices available including meditation,and the energy healing practices of eft (emotional freedom technique) and reiki that help with processing emotions. Writing in a journaling has been widely used and can be effective.  Therapy groups have been helpful to many.  The more severe the experiences causing blocked energy the greater the need for therapeutic solutions.  The body has its wisdom and in some severely abusive situations it will “store” emotions to be processed at a later date if that is what is needed to survive.

Highly sensitive people and severely abused people need to be aware that they can accept and take charge of their healing process by finding therapeutic practices and groups that will let them forgive and let go of the past. Engaging in such practices helps minimize the potential for long term destructive addiction and therefore is valuable for all people.

The Many Purposes Of Hate

 

Hate is complicated and it arises on many levels and has many purposes. We can have a complicated relationship to it. According to Dictionary, to hate means “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest.” One way of describing hate is to say it is the part of us that says no.

So if you eat some food and hate it, you may do so for any number of reasons. Perhaps it does not taste good to you or your body is telling you that it is not good for you. So hating something can provide you with information about what is good for you and what is not.

Hating And Getting Along With Others

Hating also has a social purpose. It is a tool used to teach us what is socially acceptable behavior and what is not. As children, we experience the revulsion of others to varying degrees when we act in a way that is not approved. Those experiences are often combined with rewards and punishments to direct our behavior in a certain way. Unfortunately, they can cause us to suppress important and valuable parts of ourselves. Two common forms of self-rejection are crying in boys and intelligence in girls. When we suppress the good in ourselves to be accepted and survive, which is necessary to some degree for all of us, we often begin hating ourselves. Our identities have been formed around acceptance, which means giving up our true self to get along with others.

Hate also extends to attitudes. Because it can be self-protective, it is sometimes used at a group level to insulate people from perceived threats to survival. This is where hate turns into group prejudice. No longer a tool to identify what is healthy or unhealthy group identity becomes a codified set of attributes that support the identity and experience of group members. Violating these codes means you can be ostracized from a group even permanently. Hate can go even further. Cultural narratives define what a culture works towards – its beliefs and goals. Not to go along can engender hate as can changing the narrative.

How Hate Harms

Unfortunately, hate can be used to manipulate us and others. The fear of being hated, the fear of being left out or blamed, all of these manifestations of hate can influence our choices.

Hate has some additional destructive aspects. It can

  • shut down social discourse by making people feel unwelcome. Keeping social space healthy (non-toxic) is necessary for people to be able to listen to each other constructively.
  • reduces the motivation of others to engage and participate in the social space. It is a way of marginalizing others by raising the stakes of engagement. If you are afraid for your safety it is hard to want to participate with others in life.
  • raise living costs as people try to meet the demands of inclusion. What happens when one cannot afford it?

Benefits And Disadvantages of Hate

Hate can help us understand ourselves better but can also be used to create distance from others. It can be used to increase empathy or reduce it. Hating can be used to establish social norms and demand certain behaviors – both constructive and destructive. It can act as a barrier to social mobility, as a tool of social ranking. At its best, it can inform us about what is in our best interest. At its worst, it creates untold harm.

Why We Demonize Each Other

Why do people demonize each other?

People increasingly recognize that demonizing others is a problem. However, our ancestors may not have had the same perspective.

Here are some of the reasons our forbears demonized:

  1. survival. This is the oldest reason. Our ancestors did not have all the mechanisms for survival that we have, so demonizing others justified the taking of scarce or otherwise unavailable resources.
  2. to maintain the social glue. If certain behaviors were necessary for the survival of the group, then those behaviors were supported and others shunned.  Demonizing certain behaviors created group standards that enforced a social code. This is how we invented “the status quo.” Interestingly, according to research, our brains give us error signal when we act contrary to the group, so demonizing behaviors is a very effective method of social control.
  3. to protect health. In the past, humans had no protection against disease, no sanitation, no antibiotics,  and very little medication. If an individual was a perceived health threat, they could easily be demonized and cast out of the group. People had little knowledge about the causes and cures of health problems in the past and sometimes superstition and suspicion were enough to justify ostracizing someone.
  4. to protect blood lines. Safety was an important consideration for our ancestors. You were safer with people you knew including in your family.
  5. to support an economic advantage. Demonizing someone or a group weakens their social status and claim to resources and supports opening the door for exploitation. Many old cities and their monuments were built on slave labor.
  6. habit. Our ancestors had very little information about causes and effects. Often they explained their problems by pointing to forces outside of themselves. Sometimes they were right. Nonetheless, demonizing can become a bad habit. It is also very difficult to break if it becomes a way of life for a social group.

In spite of all of our knowledge and sophistication these days, are we really that much different from our ancestors? In some ways, I think we are, but often we can revert to old habits when under pressure.We are all concerned about our survival, health, and well-being. The demands on our resources are greater with so many people living at a time of ecological challenges.

We have however become more aware of our interdependence, which prevents us from the wholesale demonization of others and that is good. Diversity and education have helped us see that others are not really so different from us, and I hope we continue to extend our idea of the group to include all of us including sensitive people.

Photo Credit: Mental Notes

Causes Of Social Phobia

It is useful for highly sensitive people to understand the causes of social phobia which often result in the crippling self consciousness and which can contribute to the HSP tendency to have an introverted personality.

Social Phobia is sometimes referred to either as Generalized Social Phobia, which NIMH states is the most common anxiety disorder, or Social Anxiety Disorder.

In 2008, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released the results of a study: Social Phobia Patients Have Heightened Reactions to Negative Comments. The researchers used functional brain imaging tools, fMRI, to map brain reactions to a variety of negative verbal expressions.  It was found that those people with social phobia had heightened brain responses only to negative comments about themselves.

The study made evident that people with social phobia are extremely afraid of being judged by other people.  The researchers were able to observe that two different sections of the brain became activated when negative comments were made to people with social phobia: the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) which is involved in the sense and evaluation of self and the amygdala which is central to emotional processing.  According to the Free Library, “the medial prefrontal cortex is involved in imagining, thinking about yourself and “theory of mind,” which encompasses the ability to figure out what others think, feel or believe and to recognize that other people have different thoughts, feelings and beliefs from you.”

This would suggest a connection between criticism and fear in the person with social phobia.  In this research, the reaction in the patient was raised by criticism, but only criticism towards themselves generated a brain reaction.  It raises a question about criticism that is worth exploring: why would one person be afraid of criticism and another would not be afraid?

As we learn more and more about our brains, it is becoming apparent that one way our brains develop is through social interaction.  The social group has been the cornerstone of our survival and our education from the earliest days of human history. When we are young we need  the support of our families and social group, and therefore must get along with them for our survival.  Rejection by our families is a serious matter, and in a child, will be perceived as a matter of life and death.

Therefore in families where criticism is perceived also as a rejection, a child will have a different experience and reaction than a child who grows up in a family that accepts him/her and criticism is not a sign of rejection.  In other words, when the child experiences affection in spite of a criticism they can have a different experience than the child who has the experience of criticism which is delivered in a rejecting or abusive way.

Since the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala areas of the brain are activated when social phobias are criticized, the implication is that criticism implies a serious imminent threat.  Many people with social phobia are HSPs, which means they are different. For them, criticism may be seen as threatening because being different raises the potential of rejection by the group and therefore concern for their survival.

Perhaps being different for many highly sensitive people has meant the experience of significant early rejection or a significant fear of rejection that causes their brains respond to all criticism with concern.  Highly sensitive people can reduce their phobia if they can accept their uniqueness and find a way to make their uniqueness a valuable contribution to their social groups.

Fixation On The Bad

I suspect that our fixation on the “bad” is a habit left over from our ancient past.”Bad” is a very problematic word.  Mostly because it is used to cover so much territory.

It can mean unpleasant, or refer to something that does not work well. When two people are in disagreement we may have a dysfunctional relationship, to cover our incompatibilities or developmental deficits.  It can mean inconvenient.  It can easily be used as code word for something else.

I suspect that bad may have been less social for our early ancestors. For them, bad may have been an unwelcome dinosaur coming for lunch, a storm or not enough basic necessities. Of course, bad could also have been any number of diseases that were not understood and had no cure. Bad could have been a visit from headhunters or other marauders, or the plague. Bad was often linked to challenges of our species living in a difficult physical environment.

As we seem to have conquered our environment, and that may be a matter up for debate, “bad” has become more ambiguous and that may be why people have so much difficulty with it and why it is so hard for people to feel good.

I think that feeling good is our normal state.  Many people like myself who meditate come to see bliss as our natural state and all the other stuff going on as distractions from our natural state. However, as long as we are being graded in one way or another by ourselves or other people and treated like we are on trial every day of our lives, most of us are probably going to have a hard time getting rid of the bad feelings that plague us.

Certainly, people have been judging each other for centuries. Perhaps it only seems worse because there are so many people on the planet now.  Seven billion people judging each other like crazy is a lot of social overhead that has to be dealt with.

For highly sensitive people, judgments, in particular, cause a lot of pain because they are not only felt acutely but also they are experienced in the body.  HSPs need to be particularly mindful about how clogged their systems can become with social judgment as well as other forms of pollution to prevent themselves from drowning in social pain.  Meditation, energy healing, and healthy dietary and lifestyle practices can do a lot to minimize bad feelings that HSPs are prone to have.

Child Abuse Affects The Brain

Article first published as Child Abuse Affects the Brain on Technorati.


The December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has reported the findings of a Yale University Study which shows that child abuse, physical and emotional impact many areas of the brain. The study included the results of the self-reported Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and brain scans of 42 teenagers, with equal numbers of caucasian and African-Americans.  Four multiracial teenagers were also included in the study.

The research showed that the volume of gray matter in the brain was diminished in the teenagers who had suffered the abuse or neglect.  The number of regions of the brain affected was substantial:

According to MedPageToday which reported the study findings these are the regions of the brain and some of their functions that are affected:

  • Physical abuse: left dorsolateral and left rostral prefrontal cortices (executive function), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), right ventral striatum (emotion and motivation), right insula (emotional intelligence), and right temporal association cortex (memory)
  • Physical neglect: left rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), right parietal association cortex (spatial perception), and bilateral cerebellum (balance)
  • Emotional neglect: certain portions of the hypothalamus and midbrain, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(executive function), bilateral rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (cognitive function), right superior frontal gyrus (self-awareness ), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), bilateral striatum, bilateral amygdala (processing emotions) and hippocampus (emotions and memory), bilateral cerebellum (balance), and left parietal (perceptual difficulties and problems with speech, writing and math), right temporal (visual memory), and left occipital association cortices (integration of visual information).

Girls showed more brain deficits in areas governing emotional processing and boys were more challenged in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control.

It is apparent that substantial and comprehensive brain damage is created as a result of child abuse. When you consider all the brain regions suffering damage from the abuse, it is inevitable that the individual will have developmental difficulties if not worse.  Sense of self, integration of sensory inputs, executive functioning and impulse control are all vital to effective daily functioning and human development.

It might be time to ask ourselves whether it is worth the cost in health bills, law enforcement and social problems as well as lost human capabilities to continue to ignore child abuse.  Better yet, if we eliminated child abuse, what would our world look like?

Bullies And Introverts: How HSPs Can Help Themselves


Bullies and introverts do not mix.

How Bullies And Introverts Are Different

Bullies and bullying can be a troublesome challenge for highly sensitive people, who are most often introverts and there are many reasons why that is the case:

  1. HSPs are usually not very aggressive and usually do not have an aggressive agenda. Bullies often have an aggressive agenda.  So the goals of bullies and introverts are usually in conflict and they often lack common ground in their interactions.
  2. Bullies are very territorial; HSPs not so much – they are more holistic and complex.
  3. HSPs are not necessarily the greatest fighters. Bullies may sense that and that may be one reason that bullies go after them. HSPs have a more poetic nature which bullies may not be able to relate to.
  4. HSPs are not the fastest people at most activities. Because of the volume of information that highly sensitive people process, they cannot be fast.  It takes time for HSPs to arrive at opinions and conclusions. Conscientiousness is one of an HSPs best qualities, but it means that they can be taken advantage of  by an aggressive person.
  5. Bullies often use pressure to obtain a result; introverts do not respond well to pressure.
  6. HSPs tend to have a holistic and sometime fairly complex worldview which is the antithesis of a bully’s us vs. them thinking.
  7. HSPs often dislike competition because they are less adversarial in their viewpoint; a bully may see life on more competitive terms.
  8. HSP’s tend to be introverted by nature (although 30% are extroverted) and for self protection.  As a result, they may not be well known to their social peers, and may even seem standoffish. Therefore, their social support may be weak and it may make it harder to obtain assistance when dealing with a bully.

How HSPs Can Handle Bullies

Handling a bully is a difficult challenge for highly sensitive people. Assuming you need to put up with a bully in your life, here are some things you can do to make your life easier in dealing with the bully:
  • don’t expect to change a bully. They are not likely to appreciate your sensitive nature.
  • let your sensitivity help you by enabling it to increase your perceived value in others. High perceived value will translate into greater respect and make you less of a target for bullies.
  • bullies often look for easy targets. So make it hard for them to see you as a target. You may not be friends but you don’t necessarily have to be enemies.
  • if a bully is hard for you to handle directly, try interacting with associates and developing your relationships among people who interact with the bully. A bully will not attack someone if in doing so they lose face.
  • make your perceived value as public as possible. The less visible and known your value is the easier it is for a bully to take advantage of you.
It is extremely important for highly sensitive people to attempt to create a social presence and counteract the isolation that can make them vulnerable.  Cultivating a social role that creates the perception of value among peers can be great insurance.  A bully and an introvert may not make great natural friends, so social self-protection can be a good investment.

Why Emotional Pain Should Be Public Business

We have so many examples of mishandled pain.  When are we going to address the problem?  When are we going to ask, why is this occurring and what we can do about it?

News about people shooting each other is so common now that many of us don’t give it a passing thought.  Or if we do it goes like this: …probably couldn’t take it… …sounds like a bad person… …I would never do that…  And so it goes, the rationalizing begins.

When we hear of a young person opening fire at a school killing others, we assume that we are dealing with a “bad” person.  On so many occasions we hear of an individual who had been abused opening fire on others. Too often, abuse and neglect were a part of the relationship between the shooter and the victim(s) until the shooter and the victim change roles.

We expect people to put up with social abuse as if it does not cause pain. Recent research would indicate otherwise. According to the February 24, 2012 article in Medical News Today ” Naomi Eisenberger of the University of Califiornia-Los Angeles, the author of a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, physical pain and social pain are processed in some of the same regions of the brain.”

This means that the person who is being abused or bullied is feeling physical pain whenever the abuse occurs.  The individual who is rejected repeatedly for being different is experiencing more physical pain with each negative experience.

The human body has the capacity to process experiences and “digest” them. However, when we become overloaded the ability to process and digest experiences can break down. We all have limits that need to be respected.

For a very long time, social pain has been treated as a problem in the individual.  It has been a way to make social ranking, social rejection and other forms of social abuse unimportant at the institutional level. We are paying a high price for our willful ignorance.

Denying social pain makes survival an individual matter and the well being of an individual also the problem of the individual.  Making people responsible for their well being is not intrinsically bad.  However, when the individual is in an environment where well being is not possible, then they are caught in an untenable situation.

I think we have let our institutions off the hook for too long.  If it is not the job of institutions to create conditions that promote well being, what are they here for? I think it is time we asked ourselves and our institutions that question.