Snubbed? Bullied? Emotional 'pain' can feel like physical pain in the brain. Resilience training can help.
Social slights can happen anywhere! Especially in this day and age when we're drowning in social media; people can feel happy if they get likes or lonely when there are no likes. Online dating can also contribute to the many virtual social snubs. Snubs to downright bullying isn't just on social media and on the playground: it exists in presidential campaigns, workplaces, and even ironically, in yoga studios! I've seen MOSTLY LOVE in yoga studios so it's quite disarming when one witnesses downright aggression for a tight space in a crowded room, micro-aggressions, (staking out turf and not moving an inch to accommodate latecomers) to a teacher discounting any meditation that wasn't taught by a certain 'guru'. As you know, meditation is a mind-state available to all humans and even though there are many amazing traditions and teachers, there's no one way of 'being'.
Healing starts with understanding:
Neuroscience is showing that social emotional pain can hurt like physical pain! Through the lens of evolution, social rejection can mean life or death. In other words, if your tribe doesn't want you and you're left alone to fend for yourself for food, shelter and reproduction (tough when you're alone!), you're less likely to survive and pass your genes on.
Even though in modern times, this no longer signals a life or death situation, our bodies' reactions are strong and to a degree, we react from the fight or flight system triggering toxic stress. One study showed that social rejection stimulates release of the pain alleviating mu-opiods in the same areas of the brain that are involved in physical pain: "ventral striatum, amygdala, midline thalamus and periaqueductal gray (PAG). This pattern of activation is consistent with the hypothesis that the endogenous opioids have a role in reducing the experience of social pain." D. T. Hsu, et. al. University of Michigan
Train your brain towards greater resilience: the ability to bounce back from setbacks. The higher your resilience, the more skillfully you can process the emotional pain and move beyond getting swept away or stuck within that pain.
- BA: Be Aware
- N: Name the emotions
- AN: Accept and normalize the emotions
- AS: Analyze and smile
BA: Be Aware
How do you even know you're being snubbed or bullied?
- It's when you feel a pattern of interaction with someone who, on purpose, says or does things to humiliate you or take you down a notch.
- This action feels even more torturous, if they have financial or social power over you.
- You feel sad and notice negative self talk.
- You may even bully someone else who you have power over! :-0
- You're anxious when you encounter this person.
- Name the emotions: anger, pain, rage, self-hatred, other-hatred, sad, dejected...inadequate... Notice how these emotions feel in your body: do you have clenched jaws, cold hands, is your heart racing? do you have tension in your neck?
- Accept the pain and all the emotions from another human being rejecting you, pointing out your inadequacies, your own attachment to ego, feelings of helplessness...
- Normalize your emotions with compassion, put your hand to your heart and silently say "Of course I feel awful, of course I have insecurites, of course I have attachment to my ego...of course this person is hurting me" remember that your brain equates this with life or death. Remember that it does NOT mean life or death. Needless to say, if you feel that you're at risk for bodily harm, take immediate action.
- Write down the positive qualities about yourself, e.g. if you're made to feel like you're not qualified to be in your position, write down your successes in the past, the training, effort and study you've put into it. If you find areas you could improve on, that's probably why you're feeling the extra raw pain. Know this and take ACTION toward improving on things that can be improved from the inside out by writing down the next steps you can take to improve your situation.
- Simply understanding why you feel the way you do can help you take the next steps to improve your situation.
- Are you playing victim to having your weakness exposed? Analyze the 'stories' that come with this in your mind. Are they true? What is the cold, hard evidence? Most likely, there's some truth and there's definitely a lot of exaggerating. Try this powerful prompt from author Brené Brown: "The story I'm making up is..." She says that it's so strong because it admits that you're not 100% correct.
- Is there appropriate action that can be taken? (e.g. if you're in a company or organization is there a protocol to follow that can help you?)
Your brain talks to your body and your body talks to your brain because it's all a connection of nerves. Your brain, central nervous system, is directly connected to your body, the peripheral nervous system. Simply changing your body can tell your brain that everything is O.K. The smile and a straight spine will feedback to the brain that this is NOT a life or death situation.
CHECK OUT THIS STUDY: Kraft TL1, Pressman SD, "Findings revealed that all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral group did, with a slight advantage for those with Duchenne smiles." (A Duchenne smile is one where you use the muscles around your eyes, a.k.a. a true smile.)
Meditation for Resilience:
Practice meditating on courage, acceptance and compassion.
Being courageous enough to know our own faults and becoming compassionate to ourselves and our emotions can help cultivate a fearless confidence, a steadfastness, that can replace all the fear and confusion. There's nothing to hide and even if something is hidden, admit that you're hiding it and accept that.
Silently say to yourself throughout your days: "May you be well, may you be happy. May I be well, may I be happy."
Meditate on what can be learned from this situation. How can it point you in the direction that you need, to move forward?
What can this person be teaching us? Perhaps we can see how we've acted in similar ways in different situations. In this way, not even a painful situation will be wasted. Every person, every situation becomes a great teacher.
Practicing compassion is hard, especially toward ourselves and people who have hurt us. But with practice, it gets easier and maybe even becomes a habit. Try this Forgiveness Meditation by Jack Kornfield.
Wishing you wellness,