A new research suggests that there might be a link between emotional and physical pain. They might be similar in the way our brain processes them. Physical and emotional pain is processed in the same part of the brain and this could perhaps explain why some painful memories like social rejection or heartbreak sticks with us for a long time.
According to most theorists and scientists who have tried to explain the evolutionary purpose of physical pain, it is a warning, an alarm system to indicate that something is wrong. It is extremely vital for our survival, for example pain stops us from holding something hot which would otherwise burn our skin.
Physical pain has two aspects: the sensory experience of pain and the emotional component, in which your brain decides how negative or distressing the pain is. The emotional component is similar to the pain experienced in social circumstances. Researchers noticed that people who had undergone social rejection and took paracetamol/tylenol (a pain killer) for three weeks reported less hurt feelings.
The researchers however felt that taking pain killers to blunt social rejection wasn’t a solution and there are long term benefits to being rejected socially. In the same way that physical pain serves the purpose of helping us avoid physical threats, feeling social rejection keeps us connected to others. If we started numbing the feeling of social rejection we’d just alienate ourselves from society.