You cannot underestimate pain of an intangible hurt

Most of us must have come across someone who is doing poorly at work after a problem cropped up at home front, or someone who just can’t concentrate on studies after being ridiculed in front of classmates, or someone who refuses to leave her room because of a nasty comment about her looks, or someone who is contemplating leaving a job because he is made to feel out of place by the senior colleagues.

What’s happening? Why aren’t these logical people behaving rationally? Well, the fact is that intelligence finds itself a nonentity when emotions hold sway. Emotions weave the knitting that holds our mental life together, and non-emotional events find it difficult to displace emotionally-charged ones from mind-shelf. They determine our mental health, and mental problems largely reflect a breakdown of emotional order.

Take ‘social rejection’ for instance. If you observe the words people use when they come across ‘social rejection’, the expressions would typically be of the likes of ‘my heart is broken’, ‘my morale is shattered’, ‘I am totally destroyed’, ‘my soul is bleeding’ or ‘you have stabbed me’. You can clearly see a feel of physicality involved in the expressions of a hurt that is purely a virtual one.

People find these expressions exaggerated, that’s why you would typically find someone telling “Why are you overreacting on such a small emotional hurt? After all, it isn’t some tangible physical damage.” Well, if you will see the video below, you will realize that it has a neural basis



Yes, our brain registers social rejections in the same area that gets activated when we are hurt physically – in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). There is an evolutionary reason to it. In the era in which the basics of our emotional being got shaped, any kind of social exclusion or rejection brought with it a possibility of a real hurt, in form of a predator or lack of resources or shortage of support.

It is proposed that due to this, our pain-centers (like ACC) might have learnt to see any social rejection not merely as someone’s choice but as an impending possibility of real harm on oneself. And thus, it acts as a neural alarm by producing a sensation of pain that it apprehends to incur, unless the depreciation in social-connect is repaired.

This is what makes emotional & social intelligence an immensely important skill for all of us in all contexts. It is the science of managing self and connecting with others. And when we call it science, it has two meanings. First, you can’t develop it without the scientific understanding of how human brain works. And secondly, emotional & social intelligence can be learnt, practiced and mastered.

However, it all begins with a simple realization that…‘You can’t underestimate pain of an intangible hurt’.

Dr. Sandeep Atre

‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert

Director – Socialigence

Note: Socialigence ( offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ with content that has global relevance and presentation that is specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.