Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Do Mothers Suffer More Because They Anticipate Pains More?

At the International Positive Psychology Association congress, Richard Davidson gave a fascinating presentation on the many good effects that becoming an expert at meditation and generating compassionate feeling can have on your life.

One study he shared compared expert meditators - Buddhist monks sent by the Dalai Lama - with a matched control group of novices. Their brains were monitored as they went from a neutral state where they were just trying to be "in the moment," to a warning that they were about to be touched with something hot, to being touched with the hot thing.

The expert meditators had low brain activity in the pain and suffering parts of the brain until they were actually touched with the hot probe. The control group, by contrast, started firing up the pain and suffering parts of the brain when they were given the warning. That is, the novices increased their suffering by anticipating pain.

This made me wonder whether mothers suffer more than other people because they worry more than other people. That is, they are anticipating pain for themselves and those they love (whose pain causes the mother suffering, too). Mothers may even go out of their way to think of things to worry about - that is, to think of unlikely pains to suffer from - as a way of being loving.

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