Let us look at the experiment that set this off. It was done at the Michigan University Medical School, in 2013. They studied students who expressed an attraction to certain other students. The subjects then entered an MRI machine and were told that the person they were describing was not interested in them. It is a bit more detailed but in principle, it is the essence of the study. The investigators (led by Dr. David Hsu) were after…… Rejection. They focused on the mu(μ) opioid receptors (think heroin). When someone feels hurt he uses the same biologic system and nerve pathways as with physical hurt. There is the release of chemicals that damp down and cap pain. They are twins, pain and its antagonist. It seems that the same pathways for physical pain are the ones that are also for emotional pain such as rejection. But there is much more to the story, which highlights the problem with laboratory research.
In our clinical research we found pain on levels unimaginable, emanating from deeper levels than the limbic/feeling system. And what happens as patients begin to relive these horrors from deep in the brain the pain builds as does the gating function, as well. And this is the kind of emotional level that is not often reached in researching pain. It is the terror from the threat of impending death, pain that equals the birth trauma that we have seen for fifty years in our work in Primal Therapy. Still, we see that emotional pain does have serious emotional components. And this can mean that as emotional pain gets embedded in the neurologic system it can ramify throughout the system, creating physical havoc. This level of pain is truly ineffable and has no verbally descriptive equivalent. From this, we may see serious physical afflictions such as cancer. Again, the pain from pre-verbal life is catastrophic and can lead to equally catastrophic disease. Let me repeat: the reason for serious catastrophic disease later in life is because there is a pileup of compounded pain pushing it. The agony I have seen in reliving early rejection, as in not being held or touched soon after birth is, I can think of no other word; ineffable. Being rejected by some attractive woman or man is literally of little consequence compared to real rejection by a parent when parental love can be life saving; and a matter of survival. It is the kind of pain we can only see clinically, not concocted in a laboratory. Then and only then can we see why we have back-up systems to control and gate pain.
So feelings can hurt and not just emotionally. They can affect the circulatory and heart system, as well. We must keep in mind that the system we use, the nerve pathways we employ, for both physical and emotional pain are often identical. And when we say, it hurt so much; it really does.