Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tylenol for psychological pain?

When someone stubs their toe or twists their ankle, no one responds to the individual’s ensuing expression of pain with, “Just be strong, you can endure it!” We quickly recognize that such experience is truly painful and the person’s physiological and emotional response to the painful experience is involuntary and expected.

 I do notice, however,  that when an individual experiences some particular instance of social trauma, perhaps being excluded from a group or rejected by a loved one, many times they are quickly reminded to “Be strong” and “Don’t react” or “Don’t get too emotional” or “Don’t let other people affect your feelings so much.”

In the book “Subliminal, How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” author Leonard Mlodinow mentions, “It is fascinating that the pain of a stubbed toe and the sting of a snubbed advance share a space in your brain.”

Our brain really does seem to go through a similar process when we experience psychological pain as when we experience physical pain. Many times though, we are chided for expressions of emotion when it relates to psychological pain when such reactions are equally involuntary as emotions resulting from physical pain.

I am going through intense bursts of psychological pain right now. The pain can get so bad. Feeling rejected by a loved one and losing my cat Nephe—and so suddenly—can be absolutely devastating. Words become futile as I attempt to describe what I’m feeling—what I’ve gone through the past couple of weeks. I am under no delusion that others haven’t gone through similar…or worse.

In my efforts to find a solution to my pain, I’ve often thought, “They have pills to quash the pangs of physical distress, why not for acute, psychological triggers?”  As it turns out, Tylenol actually deadens psychological pain. A study is mentioned in the book referenced above that seems to suggest Tylenol’s ability to reduce pain among individuals who have been socially excluded. Hmm, I’ll have to try it.    (read the book for further details, its one of the best one's I've skimmed in a while)

P.S. Please don’t suggest alcohol. I almost never drink.


  1. emotional pain is so tough. i have been paralyzed by it. i think the trick is to think about the "full context". Kind of what that philosopher talks about in that video i linked in your post on 'morality in a material world.'

    anyway, you're a champ, you'll get through it.

    1. oh i remember. I know that it's very very hard for me to think when i'm feeling emotional pain...and i remember how much focus it took to absorb that video i referred you to. So i realize that telling you to think of the "full context" of your life is not necessarily helpful right now.

      I think right now you ought to begin physical exercise if you're not doing already. Exercise definitely helps with the pain. I might have saved myself a couple of years (lowball estimate) of persistent broken-heart feelings if i had begun an exercise regimen.

      Exercise is your tylenol.

  2. The best solution I've run across is to involve yourself in another similar situation to the one you've lost. Not replacing what whats gone, because thats impossible, but ameliorating your pain by forming new attachments.This is of little solace but sometimes it's the only way to stop a downward spiral into chronic depression. You are a beautiful and intelligent women and I'm sure there are many others would value your love and companionship.

    1. i don't agree. i believe individuals can and should build their strength primarily from within, not through attachments.

  3. I meant in the short term in order to stop the emotional pain, you know, then get on with strength building when you're back on your feet.

  4. I've been in some pretty emotionally dark places in my short time on this planet.

    I used to take antidepressants and some anti-anxiety meds of the benzo variety (clonazepam). In fact, drugs of the benzo variety (diazepam etc) could probably help you here as well.

    I think I probably needed them to feel some sense of balance, if I didn't take anything I probably would have drifted off to a place far worse than I did go.

    I view your desire to take something like tylenol as an attempt to suspend your emotions until your brain has the time to process and catch up with what is happening - I would also like to state, that in my opinion it is far better to take the meds now, than to wait until your brain gets used to the moods and habit of being stuck in this rut you are in.

  5. I'm sorry to hear about what you are going through recently. Nephe seemed like a very cudly cat from your vids. From what you showed on your vid I can tell how much you loved him. (her?) I don't know what to say about your rejection from a love one (not knowing if it is from a releative or other and I won't ask). If I can help cheer you up, Tylenol may not only help with pschological pain but would also make it easier going through certain youtube videos. After reading some of the comments on your blog I figured that the best of both worlds from the commentors would be the best choice. Build your emotional stength up not just by youself but with others who can help you. With others helping, try to be as honest with them as possible. To many times I have seen people try to "win over sympathy" by making themselves more of a victim than they actually are. When it comes to conflicts with other people, as difficult as it is, try to be as objective as possible on what happened and where they stand on this. Try never to fill in your own blanks on why they did this or that if they did not tell you directly. Many people do this (both knowing and unknowing) and end up making them look like a victim (again) and the other person the worst thing in the world. I'm sorry if I'm teling you things you more or less may already know but I just wanted to put my two cents in with the others. if you do the right thing for yourself and others time will help heal the rest.

  6. I'm not sure there is anything to be done for it, or if there was, that you'd want to.

    I'm not a huge fan of Star Trek, but I have a vague memory of one of the movies where Spock's brother was some type of cult leader with the ability to remove the accumulated pain people carried within themselves, which he used to "convert" most of the crew of the Enterprise. When he offered to do the same for Capt. Kirk, he refused on the grounds that his pain was a necessary part of his identity.

    I'm not suggesting that you could find some way to spin whatever you are feeling into a positive chapter of your life, but you might try to re-frame it into the bigger picture of what makes you "you." The pain, as I'm sure some part of you knows, will feel less acute with the passage of time. I'd be surprised if you didn't gain some wisdom out of the deal as well. Ultimately it will just be another part of you, which I hope is a complex and good thing overall.

    The alternatives, as I see them, might not be palatable to you. You could continue looking to dull the pain, but to me that sounds like only being willing to experience the good/pleasurable things in life. I suspect that particular philosophy is a dead-end.

    Or you could try to do some deep introspection and figure out how it was possible that an event caused you emotional pain, and then try to cauterize it (permanently desensitize the vulnerable area) . I'm not sure that is even possible for people without attachment disorders or born with teflon-coated hearts. Even if it is, if you do enough of that then you end up alone wandering around a barren wasteland (metaphorically speaking).

    In closing, I'd suggest you accept the pain, try to learn something from it, and focus on whatever immediate tasks/chores your day-to-day life present you. One day soon you'll wake up and realize that it has been 2 or 3 days since you have thought about [whatever] and then you'll know you've turned the corner.

    1. Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement and helpful suggestions. It means so much to me to see your kind, reflective comments. Andrew, I really appreciate your words in particular. I will try and not numb myself from the pain and experience it fully. You are right, life isn't only about the good times.

    2. You are welcome. I suffered through a painful break-up in my early 30's so I know that regardless of any advice that us or your RL friends give you, you are going to be miserable for a while.

      Switching topics, it appears I have missed quite a few updates here. I commented on something back in February, but it looks like I need to sort out getting notified when you put up new blog entries. Anyway, I'll try to catch up with the reading after my exams are done. Take care.

  7. Suva,

    About six months ago, a girl I loved, and who loved me, turned away from the relationship due to fear and her spiritual beliefs.

    I walked into this with my eyes wide opened. I had been warned by many who knew her far longer that she was afraid of true intimacy, but I took on a bit of a Superman complex I suppose. I also, for the first time in ages, accepted her new-agey spiritualism as her path through the world, even offering to support her in her endeavors to grow within it. She needed to be cherished, not challenged -- it's difficult to know the difference sometimes.

    I say this because, probably like you, I had 'no real choice' in the matter. I fell for her the moment I saw her, as she for me. My mom and dad met like that and were married 54 years. I've had it twice before in my life, and it's simply not something you can nor should ever choose to ignore. It's too precious; too close to the meaning of life to walk away, even with the alarms sounding off.

    Perhaps you thought you could help this person. Perhaps you just felt, as I did, that anything short of trying was a betrayal of life's highest value. And, of course, the probable answer for both of us is the ubiquitous "wrong person or wrong time."

    But what choice did you 'really' have, assuming you loved with all your being?

    It took a while to get over feeling numb, betrayed, and disappointed, true. Yet nothing will ever make me believe that the experience should have been avoided, merely to circumnavigate the pain. Loves like that are far too rare, and there's always the chance (assuming one does not betray one's heart, as she did) that a wondrous emprise will be the result.

    I learned more from the experience and the pain than I would have ever learned from the armchair.

    For what it's worth,

    (aka RationalMuscle on YouTube)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you RationalMuscle. I will definitely check out your channel too.

      I've still been going through a ton of grief and the feeling of loss. I was in a relationship for 7 years with someone who I thought loved me--someone who I loved with all my heart. He has met someone else and has moved on. It really hurts especially since I still love him. I thin the hardest part is getting rid of my love for him.

      I'm trying to stay away from the victim mentality but this is beyond painful to me. He recently told me that he is going to give my cat away to someone else---when he knows how deeply I want him back. Pure cruelty. Yes, I know, I know...I've heard it a million times, "Why would you want to be with that sort of person anyways?". My Dad and I were talking about this and he said that sometimes a person's true colors come out in the end. I'm not saying I'm faultless in anyway or that improvements cannot be made.

      Thanks again for your comment here and I'll definitely think about all that you said here.

      Thank you to everyone and sorry if I've been bad at responding to you.


  8. Weird - ordinary Paracetamol against psychological quirks? What's next? Aspirin as a contraceptive? And ibuprofene will enable you to breath under water? :-).

    If you were in Europe I could recommend a number of traditional herbal teas that probably could get you jailed in the US (I'm not sure - a lot of rather harmless things can get you jailed over there). But here is the unfortunate fact: you will have to live with it. You will have to get over it. And I would have told you the same thing as your father: indeed often the true character comes out at the end. Or generally when the going gets tough. Sometimes the wimps take command and turn out to be excellent first responders when disaster strikes. Sometimes the cool types show their real a..wh... face. And it is bull to tell someone "not to react emotionally" because that would require our emotions to be subjected to our willpower. Pretty much by definition they aren't, right? When my daughters come home with bruised knees, crying as if there would be no tomorrow, I keep telling them: the good thing about pain is, that it goes away. And you will hardly remember. Distract yourself. In similar situations I like to dive into the pool and swim a few kilometers. Usually that helps. What doesn't help is sit at home under the covers and wallow in self pity.