Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shot through the heart

For a writing class in college, I wrote about a Stanford University research study on heartbreak.

Maybe I was going through something similar at the time and found it relatable.

Researchers claimed that the part of the human brain that’s triggered when someone is physically hurt is also triggered during a break-up. That our brains process the emotional events as if we were being physically wounded.

This could be the reason why people with broken hearts look and act like people who are physically sick: they lay in bed all day, throw up, cry to their friends about how bad they feel and, uhhhhhh, heavily medicate.

Gives new meaning to the phrases “It felt like he punched me in the stomach” or “that bitch put a KNIFE in my heart”

Some people -- I know two personally -- have never been heartbroken or dumped or wronged and can’t relate to the lyrics of many fine country songs.

But, for those who have, this research isn’t surprising.

I’ve seen friends in the fetal position clutching their cell phone crying that a guy was no longer returning calls and texts; I’ve had a guy friend shed tears at a campfire about how his girlfriend said one day that she wants to break up, but still wants him as her “best friend.”

Oh, it hurts. (Just ask Ronnie and Sammi. They can barely function.)

So how did the researchers simulate a “breakup?”

They created a computer game where the subject was throwing a ball with a computer- generated person. They throw it back and forth for awhile and throw harder passes and move all over the screen to catch it.

In the middle of all this computer fun, a third computer person joins the game, and the three pass the ball to one another.

But a few minutes later, the two other people start throwing the ball just to each other, and no longer the test subject. The test subject is waiting, waiting for the ball, but it never gets passed to him/her again. Anticipation followed by disappointment.
The test subject gets dumped.

Transmitters monitored the test subjects' brain activity. It showed that the minute the person realized he/she was being left out of the game, the same part of their brain was triggered that would also be triggered if they had, say, been punched in the face.

A bruised ego is like a regular bruise, apparently. (And both can only heal with time…snap! Maybe there is something to this.)

The study applies not just to big breakups, but even getting played by someone –anyone – that you wanted to play ball with who chose to play ball with someone else.

If I remember correctly, the study was conducted to show psychiatrists -- and newly single people I’d imagine -- a new way to look at breakups, one that could provide insight into why “GET OVER IT, MOVE ON” is the most impossible advice ever (Dad).

Would you advise me to "Get over" my AMPUTATED ARM within a month???
WHAT IF I HAD MALARIA LIKE GEORGE CLOONEY???

AND, HOW CAN I NOT THINK ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME WHEN I'M REMINDED OF THE STICHES IN MY CHIN EVERYTIME I TALK OR EAT
(uh, for example)

If I told you that I had the stomach flu or was super hungover, it would be perfectly fine to let me cry and not be interested in hanging out and order certain foods and then not be hungry two seconds later.
Perhaps we should give people mourning over a relationship the same courtesy. It's science, y'all!!

Now, I’m not presently heartbroken, but when I was, I found some sort of weird comfort in the fact that physical pain is on par with emotional pain in my brain. (Insane in the membrane…)

Like, it's OK to hurt. No one would expect someone to sit through a ruptured appendix without shedding a few tears.

Maybe that tidbit can help you, too, on this, the day that is Valentine’s Day.

Because if you happen to be heartbroken, or recently played, or, um, named Eva Longoria, today’s going to suck.
Especially every time you Google something and the Valentine’s Day love logo comes up.

My advice is to take a sick day, and use it as an excuse to mope around and eat crackers in bed.

I’m sure a therapist somewhere would be happy to write a doctor’s note:

"(Fill in the blank) can’t come to work today, she has LiarLarryLaryngitis.

CheaterChristinaChickenPox.

PsychoPaulPsoriasis.

StupidSallyStomachFlu.
"

I understand if she makes you feel queasy.

-Jenny

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