Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Connection Between Mental and Physical Pain

mental pain.jpg claims to have found shared roots between mental and physical pain.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?"

The old adage is being called into question by new research from UCLA. Dr. Naomi Eisenberger has found that social rejection and physical pain are intrinsically linked in the brain, so much so that a lack of the former can impact the latter.

How Social Rejection Might Affect Physical Pain

In an experiment published in the 2006 issue of the journal Pain, Eisenberger used 75 subjects to explore perceptions of physical pain in the context of social situations.

First, researchers identified each person’s unique pain threshold by transmitting varying levels of heat to the forearm. Participants rated pain levels until they reached “very unpleasant.” This provided a baseline for personal pain thresholds under normal conditions.

Participants then participated in a ball-tossing game with three characters on a computer screen. One character represented the participant, and researchers told participants that the other two characters were played by real people, though a computer actually controlled everything. The participant was either socially included (the ball was thrown to their character) or excluded (the ball was never tossed to their character). In the final 30 seconds of the game, a new heat stimulus was applied and subjects again rated the level of pain they felt.

Unsurprisingly, the non-included group reported 67% more social distress on average. More surprisingly, the same people who reported high social distress from the game also reported higher pain ratings at the end of the game—showing a link between social and physical pain.

This article has made a big impact on my leadership.

So what does this mean for us:

1. Outside Life Affects Performance

The people you lead have lives outside your group. Anxiety, stress, emotions, frustrations, and other distractions are inevitable. Leading means knowing and empathizing with what is going on in the lives of those around you.

2. Do You Really Know Your People? 

The best coach understands how his or her athlete/employee learns. Then they teach them. To do this, you must take the time to have conversations, laugh, joke, listen, and really get to know them. Feeling valued as a person is more important and significant than any leadership responsibility.

3. Creating The Right Culture 

When your people are with you, it is vital they know they are in a safe place. This area can serve as a necessary distraction to outside life. Those you lead should be happy and excited to be led by you. Do you spend time with them? Do you know their families? Talk to them instead of ordering them around.

An effective leader must understand and have committed deep relationships with his or her audience. Personal connections are important. Are you paying attention? Are you asking the right questions? Are you taking the time to get to know them not just what they can do for the desired goal or objective?

What happens to people in their personal lives will mentally change them. It will affect how they react to situations and they may be more sensitive to any direction you are trying to give them. The mind is powerful and can change your leadership.

Have you ever experienced a connection between mental and physical pain?

How can you deepen the relationships with those you lead?