Easing the Pain by Coming Together

September 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm 1 comment

Beth found an interesting article today in the Science Daily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090927150348.htm

Called “Pulling Together Increases Your Pain Threshold” whereby a study of an Oxford rowing team found that as boys worked together, they were able “to tolerate twice as much pain as when they trained on their own.” Further conclusions from the study indicated that “acting as a group and in close synchrony seems to ramp up pain thresholds’ and “this effect may underlie the experience of warmth and belonging that we have when we do activities like dancing, sports, religious rituals and other forms of communal exercises together. “

And of course, Girls Circles and Boys Councils.  This study confirms how important and powerful community is and how the brain responds to an environment that promotes bonding and working together.    From a female perspective, we know from Louann-Brizendine, M.D., author of “The Female Brain” that girls connecting through talking and being together activates the pleasure centers in the female brain,  reduces stress and promotes neurobiological rewards including the release of the powerful  “bonding hormone – oxytocin.  The Oxford study focuses on boys bonding through physical activity which we know is an important component of the Council for Boys and Young Men – meaningful activity that promotes boys’ connection.

These “feel-good” hormones – for boys AND girls – are crucial to their well-being and doesn’t it make perfect sense that in a caring community of belonging, caring, non-judgment, respect, and teamwork, that adolescents can overcome the pain they feel  – whether it be in their personal lives, family lives, social lives, academic lives….by working together towards supporting each other through the sometimes painful experiences commonly coupled with being an adolescent?

How many times have you witnessed this happening in a group?   A girl or boy takes a risk and shares a story or  experience that is incredibly difficult and painful and the group comes to their aid by either supporting them, or sharing their own experience, and working together in a way that confirms that “they are not alone.”   And the usual result?  A decrease in pain.  Or at the least, a better tolerance for the pain they feel.  We innately know this to be true, but it’s always a pleasure to find science and research that backs up what we know happens when human beings work together  – the power of a group – the wisdom of circle – in short, human contact and communal bonding.

What painful experiences has your group overcome together that would’ve been twice as hard as if they had tried to manage it alone?    Share with us and let’s anecdotally confirm together the power of our connections.

~Giovanna Taormina
Executive Director

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Beth  |  September 30, 2009 at 3:21 am

    Thanks Giovanna and describing the study and our witness to the power of a group that comes together, finds a shared purpose, and can weather storms as a result of their bonds. One that I remember well was when a teen girl was facing the prospect of having to leave her home to move across the country and live with her Grandmother because her own mother was living with an increasingly serious illness. Not only was the girl reluctant to leave her mother, but afraid of the unknown at a new home, school and community. The girls in the circle totally affirmed her for her caring about her mother, the very difficult situation she was in, and their reassurance to her that they are there for her – only a text away- and that her relationship with her grandmother was a really good one. Tears led to hugs and comfort for this girl. Only a few weeks previous, she had been so shy she hadn’t told anyone about what was happening at home. Her circle of friends really showed up at a critical time in her life.
    Thanks, G!

    Reply

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