Friday, December 17, 2010

She broke my heart

You damage your health if you don't have social relationships according to Matt Liebermann.

At the 2010 Mind and Its Potential Conference, Liebermann said the damage was equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

In fact, he said, sociality is not an accident – it is ancient and by design.

We had and still have a much better chance of survival if we are not alone.

It still holds true today

Think of how animals hunt – they search for and pounce on the loner, the one separated from the group.

And reflect on the language we use as we encourage people to sign up to our point of view or pitch: “there’s strength in numbers”; “we can’t go this alone”.

Consider also the stories of babies who don’t thrive when they are deprived of social connection. Click here for one commentary that reflects on what happens.

Amygdala can’t tell the difference

So if sociality is critical to our survival, perhaps that’s the explanation why our amygdala can’t tell the difference between social pain and a threat to our physical existence.

The Almond Effect® is all about that – our bodies jumping into survival mode, fight, flight, flock or freeze, when our amygdala perceive an emotional or mental threat (e.g. your boss’s raised voice, an irate customer, the exclusion by the team, running late for a critical meeting), yet none of these are likely to result in us being wounded or injured physically.

The way we talk about social pain reinforces our amygdala’s inability to discriminate. We use the language of physical pain: “She broke my heart, you hurt my feelings, I’m gutted.”

Learn to accept the things you can't change

There are many tools we can use to manage the social pain we feel, The Almond Effect®, both at work and beyond.

One critical tool for me is the use of acceptance.

So for example, one of the best ways to deal with ongoing challenges at work, is to accept that work will never be completely harmonious and free from irritations and politics. To believe it will, is simply living in a false reality.

I came across these words ascribed to Fr Alfred D’Szouza. They sit above my desk and I reflect upon them daily to help me accept and deal with social pain and my ‘almonds’. I hope you find them useful too.

For a long time it had seemed to me
That life was about to begin – real life;
But there was always some obstacle
in the way.
Something to be got through first.
Some unfinished business,
time still to be served,
a debt to be paid.
Then life would begin.
At last it dawned on me
that these obstacles were my life.

Then you can move on

In other words, once you have accepted the situation, you can do something about it.

There will be more about strategies on how to do that in future CLUES.

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