When laughter is contagious and anger sits in your stomach: What is it about psychological idioms
“A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved”: There are sentences that have been with us for a lifetime. We also like to use idioms when it comes to our health. But then what do we actually say?
With almost 40 degrees Celsius on the thermometer, it is important to keep a cool head. If it weren’t for the anger in my stomach because the air conditioning on the bus didn’t work. Well, at least the other passengers share the sweaty fate, because as the saying goes: A shared sorrow is a sorrow halved. But is that really the case?
Psychological idioms accompany us in many situations in life. They can offer comfort, give us words for feelings that we would otherwise not be able to name, and illustrate what is going on inside us. But sometimes we just say proverbs in front of us without thinking about the actual meaning. This can quickly lead to misunderstandings, especially in a psychological context. That’s why we took a closer look at six idioms related to the human psyche.
Psychological Idioms: “Keep a cool head”
One appointment follows another, household chores pile up and free time is often in short supply. We live in a fast moving time. With increasing time pressure, the stress also increases – and it can sometimes cloud the senses. It is all the more important to keep a cool head. Or, to put it another way: Approach tasks and decisions in a relaxed and pragmatic manner. However, the head does not have to be cool in the true sense of the word for this. However, people who are unable to regulate stress actually run the risk of their brains being overwhelmed. The release of the stress hormone cortisol puts our body on alert, which in turn causes blood pressure to rise and breathing to increase. After a stressful situation, we therefore need the opportunity to regenerate. Otherwise, our stress system could overheat at some point – which in the worst case leads to changes in the brain.
By the way: Even the heat prevents us from keeping a cool head. At temperatures above 25 degrees, the risk of suffering a depressive episode increases, as Trevor Harley, a psychologist at the Scottish University of Dundee, reports in an interview with the British Daily Mail. “When the outside temperatures rise, the brain has problems with complex tasks. But what is more worrying is the increased risk of suicide or self-harm.” At temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, our brain can swell, which leads to typical heat symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and nausea.
“Having Anger in Your Stomach”
The annoying neighbor who prods for the twentieth time when you actually want to watch TV in peace, the girlfriend who behaves consistently unreasonable or even just the thread that just doesn’t want to get in the eye of a needle: If we only get angry about things long enough, then comes the anger.
Physically, the unloved feeling then actually makes itself felt in the stomach area, in the form of a feeling of pressure. This happens especially when we swallow the anger instead of acting it out. Of course, we shouldn’t smash everything in the office if we don’t like something. So sometimes it’s not appropriate to let our anger run free – but at some point the anger has to come out of the stomach again. Because: Suppressed feelings do not disappear into thin air, but are guaranteed to speak up again. And then they often come back in double force; or even in the form of psychosomatic complaints or depression. By the way: next to sadness, fear and stress, anger is one of the most common causes of psychosomatic illnesses.
“Shared pain is half of the pain”
If you have problems, you should talk about them. This is advice that I’m sure almost everyone has heard at some point. But can suffering really be cut in half when we share with another person? Psychology professor Tom Brinthaupt from Middle Tennessee State University asked himself this question. In several studies, he was able to prove that we actually feel better when we talk about worries and fears.
According to a study by the two social psychologists Rajagopal Raghunathan and Kim Corfmann, the type of exchange is also important. Accordingly, it helps us the most when we share our suffering with people who are close to our hearts and, ideally, share similar views.
“The chemistry is right”
There are people with whom we get along blindly, share common memories, values and interests and feel great sympathy. Everything fits. Some would say: the chemistry is right. And she really does. Because – as disappointing as this may be for one or the other romantic now – basically chemical processes in our body decide who we like or who we fall in love with.
When choosing a partner, the nose often decides at first who we like. We subconsciously perceive the gene pool of our counterpart through our sense of smell and thus unnoticed select the partners with whom the chemistry is literally right to have healthy offspring.
“Having a Broken Heart”
The loss of a loved one is one of life’s greatest crises. Those who suffer from lovesickness often speak of a broken heart. The organ cannot literally break, but “broken heart syndrome” has been known in medicine for some time. The phenomenon is triggered by severe emotional stress and causes symptoms similar to those of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath and heart pain. The dysfunction of the heart occurs mainly in women after the menopause – how exactly it comes about has not been clearly researched to this day. But the fact is, the heart is not really broken.
“Laughter is contagious”
Who doesn’t know it: Someone in the room starts laughing and a little later everyone present laughs too. Laughter is a wonderful element of human communication. It relaxes us, meanwhile we are in the here and now and it makes us happy. And laughter is contagious, it has been proven. Psychologist Ilona Papousek from the University of Graz explains the phenomenon as follows: “If we observe other people laughing, the regions in the brain that are active when we laugh ourselves are activated. This prepares us to laugh.”
By the way, you can even catch yourself with your laughter: by simply grinning at yourself in the mirror for a while. It doesn’t even have to be a real laugh, because at some point it all turns into real laughter anyway. Either because you find yourself pretty funny right now, or because your body signals to your brain “Hey, let’s laugh!”