Calgary Herald

The pain of getting dumped really hurts

Why your brain is wired to keep wanting her and what you can do about it

- Dr . Tom keenan Tom Keenan is a science wriTer, public speaKer and professor in The faculTy of environmen­Tal design aT The universiTy of calgary.

There’s no doubt that both men and women can suffer from the ending of a romantic relationsh­ip — we all use words like hurt and pain to describe what we’re going through. But a new study shows that rejection actually hits the same parts of the brain as physical pain.

Researcher­s at the University of Michigan and Columbia University rounded up 19 men and 21 women in Manhattan who felt intensely rejected as a result of a recent unwanted romantic relationsh­ip breakup.

They subjected them to the physical pain of a hot thermode on the forearm and the social pain of having to look at a headshot of their ex-partner while thinking about their breakup experience.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the scientists demonstrat­ed increased activity in the same brain areas in both painful situations. They concluded that social rejection and physical pain are similar in that they are both distressin­g and they share a common representa­tion in somatosens­ory brain systems as well.

Dr. John Demartini has spent almost 40 years studying the bio- logical basis of human behaviour, moving from his roots as a Texas chiropract­or to his role today as an internatio­nal speaker (he’s in Edmonton and Calgary this month, along with offering a free online presentati­on; find details at drdemartin­i.com).

He says these findings are not at all surprising. He compares being rejected to the phenomenon of referred pain, in which a person who has a leg missing still feels pain, or the way our posture demonstrat­es our emotional state. He also notes when people have a broken heart, they sometimes activate cardiac symptoms.

“The idea that a person can have emotional pain and a somatic effect from that makes total sense to me,” Demartini says.

“We tend to externaliz­e internal conditions and sometimes internaliz­e external conditions, so their mapping in the brain makes total sense to me. I don’t think you can even have emotions without having physical demonstrat­ions of that, and the metaphors in our linguistic­s give them away sometimes.”

So, who handles breakups better: men or women? Men’s Health magazine put that question to its readers in an online survey. About a quarter of the readers advised the newly dumped to go out and get drunk with male friends.

However, 36 per cent of the respondent­s suggested a guy should look at his new ex, smile, and thank her. The Men’s Health author, Dave Zinczenko, sagely comments that both of these responses are masks for a guy’s true feelings.

Zinczenko writes that women face their relationsh­ip blues head on, and get them out of their systems earlier. Many men tend to repress their reaction, so it lingers. He also cites research from Carnegie Mellon University that women adjust better to the end of a relationsh­ip because they’ve already given considerat­ion to the possibilit­y of a breakup, whereas men are typically unprepared for it.

A study from Wake Forest University gives further insight into why men may suffer more from breakups than women do. Men take rejection as more of a shot to their self worth, and also tend to have a weaker network of friends for support. One commentato­r notes that male friend networks tend to be competitiv­e, so you’re not likely to go cry on a buddy’s shoulder the way women do.

Demartini agrees that men can suffer more than women in a breakup, especially if it means dealing with their ego and challengin­g their normal facade and persona. He also suggests that if men realize they are getting physical symptoms from relationsh­ip issues, they may take it harder than if, say, they were working out and just hurt themselves.

As for a coping strategy, Demartini says a guy who’s just been dumped needs to analyze what parts of his ex-partner he was attracted to, and find those traits in himself. We only minimize and subordinat­e ourselves, and become dependent on, somebody who we think has something we don’t. He also suggests listing the benefits of her being gone.

It’s worth mentioning, as Lance Armstrong does on his livestrong.com blog, that profession­al counsellin­g may also be helpful. Armstrong quotes the counsellin­g staff at the University of Saskatchew­an, who advise avoiding entering into a new relationsh­ip while you’re still struggling to get over the prior one.

Of course, if that relationsh­ip involves some buddies and a few beers, it’s probably just fine — even if the emotional scars haven’t quite healed over.

 ?? Herald Archive ?? When it comes to breakups, a study shows that men may suffer more than women.
Herald Archive When it comes to breakups, a study shows that men may suffer more than women.
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