"Me heart broken,” my 3-year-old grandson said with tears in his eyes as he hugged his mother. This after he had gotten a little too rough in playing and had accidentally hurt her. Her physical hurt immediately drew a reaction from him – a reaction of sympathy, sorrow, and seeking forgiveness. His concern brought appreciation and a sense of support from his mother, who understood his lack of maturity. Instead of hurt and negative attitudes, joy carried the day for mom and son.
However, not all broken hearts are that quickly healed. Take the situation of separation and divorce recently described in the LA Times. Mikaela Conley in “Heartbreak Can Take a Physical Toll,” described how the pain of a woman’s heartbreak (Hope Rising is her name) after the breakup of her marriage was debilitating. This emotional pain led to serious physical illnesses.
The loss of a loved one – no matter what the reason – is a leading cause of a broken heart. But for many years this condition was labeled as a heart attack. More recent investigations have found that it is quite different from a heart attack, and it has actually been dubbed broken heart syndrome – which results from stress. In the case of this syndrome, the body releases a flood of chemicals, including adrenaline, and this sudden flood of chemicals can stun the heart muscle and leave it unable to pump properly. Dr. Annabelle Volgman, Medical Director of Rush University Medical Center’s Heart Center for Women stated, “…that this is one of those diseases that clearly points to the fact that there is a connection between emotions and physical health.”
Pain is as real in social and mental situations as pain incurred physically. According to the research, my daughter – reacting to physical pain – and my grandson – reacting to emotional pain – probably had similar brain activity. Research published in Current Directions in Psychological Science “…found that social pain and rejection are quite real and that brain activity is similar in people when they talk about both moments of social rejection or physical pain.”