Stress and the Social Self: How Relationships Affect Our Immune System

From our friends at brainpickings:

Somewhere in our brains we carry a map of our relationships. It is our mother’s lap, our best friend’s holding hand, our lover’s embrace — all these we carry within ourselves when we are alone. Just knowing that these are there to hold us if we fall gives us a sense of peace. “Cradled,” “rooted,” “connected” are words we use to describe the feeling that comes of this knowledge; social psychologists call this sense embeddedness. The opposite is perhaps a more familiar term — we call it loneliness.

Thus a person, sitting by herself in a room, may appear to others to be quite alone; but that person, if embedded, will have a world of relationships mapped inside her mind — a map that will lead to those who can be called on for nurture and support in time of need. But others, the Gatsbys among us, might be among a crowd of dozens and yet feel very much alone. Many pieces of great literature have in fact tapped into this sense of disconnectedness. Our sense that powerful forces beyond our bodies link us to others is so ingrained that we use phrases such as “times that bind,” “family dyes,” and “bonding,” to describe those intangible connections. And the emotions they evoke are among the greatest forces that affect our hormonal, our nerve chemical, and our immune responses — and through these, our health and our resistance to disease.

Check out the entire article here.

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