Scientific Research on Our Limited Capacity to Feel Emotional Pain

I found some interesting research on the cells in the brain that apparently are involved in processing emotions. The are called spindle cells. I learned that we have much fewer spindle cells when we are very young then we do as we get older. Here’s a comparison that shows that,

These cells are found by putting people into a sophisticated brain scanner that can identify and count the number of spindle cells in the brain. The person being scanned is given some kind of emotional stimulation the the spindle cells “light up” meaning they become active in is a way that can be sensed by the scanner.

What was discovered through this research is that you start out with a limited number of spindle cells when you are born but get more of them as you get older,

In this comparison the brain on the bottom is that of a 7 month old baby, The number of spindle cells is 7,915 in the right hemisphere and 5,860 in the left hemisphere.

By contrast, the brain at the top, that of a 71 year old man has 47,670 spindle cells in the right hemisphere and 35,185 in the left hemisphere.

This supports our insight about emotional overwhelm happening frequently when we are quite young, We just don’t have the hardware to process intense emotional experiences. It is like early computers that would lock up in some kind of system error because they didn’t have enough processing power in certain situations. This inability to process the emotional energy due to the limited number of spindle cells provides a logical basis for why everyone develops the habits of suppression and avoidance of painful feelings pre-verbally.

The problem is that although we gain more and more spindle cells as we age, it is unlikely that we fully utilize them because of this deep conditioning of suppression and avoidance of feeling. It doesn’t seem to be a hardware problem but instead our inner human software operating system has a “bug” it it that isn’t allowing the full access and use of the spindle cells, Here’s a graphic that shows this idea,

It appears that the combination of the limited number of spindle cells and the pre-verbal conditioning of emotional suppression and avoidance are at the root of why traumas don’t self-heal over time. This is also very likely why there is a wide-spread belief that PTSD is incurable and why overcoming the pain of loss in grief or heartbreak can take months or even years to resolve, Typically a single PTSD symptom like nightmares, or the pain of loss from grief or heartbreak take only one or two sessions to completely resolve the pain using the Pure Awareness Techniques,

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