Why it’s Important to Feel Pain (Sometimes)
You have probably experienced pain at some point in your life, whether it’s in the form of physical or psychological pain. When it hurts, you can have all different kinds of reactions. You may have the instinct to run, or try to fight the pain, or even freeze up and not know how to react. I think no matter how you try, most of us have the same goal of trying to distance ourselves from pain. We try to get as far away as we can from what hurts and try to reduce our pain as much as possible. But should our goal ever be not having pain at all? Should we try to get completely away from pain?
I began thinking about all of this after reading about a recent study that said your ability to tolerate physical pain can actually change. Meaning, you can change how much pain you feel by changing what you are looking at. In this study, they found that if you are getting a shot in your arm, if you look away you will experience more pain than if you look at your arm. And, you will experience even less pain if you see your arm up close. Your mind can actually moderate how much pain you feel. Fascinating! So I wonder if that would mean that we can actually teach ourselves to have less pain? But would we want to eliminate pain entirely? I’m not so sure.
Is experiencing pain a vital part of living? I wonder if pain is an essential component of empathy. Do you think it’s possible to understand the pain of others if you have never experienced pain itself? Experiencing pain may also be an essential component of compassion. Having compassion for others and empathy may require an understanding of how actions, words and deeds can impact another person. It would seem to me, that feeling pain and being able to experience it, is really a fundamental part of being human and being humane. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying I think you should go out and try to get hurt or endure unnecessary pain. But I wonder if the next time you begin to feel pain, you might want to also remember that it is a fundamental part of what makes you a connected and caring human being. And if you didn’t feel that pain, you may not be able to understand the pain of others or have compassion for others in the same way. What do you think? Do you think you’d be able to have compassion or empathy without pain?