Pushing It Out
Dealing with pain is easy for some people but not for others. Common sense I think yes? Everyone deals with pain differently right? But does this mean that there is no effect for some people and demonstrative effects in others? I mean, if someone says that pain isn’t a problem for them, i.e. they are able to push through the pain to achieve whatever goal was set before them, is that really true? Is it a problem that they just don’t see?
It may be true that someone can achieve a given goal despite being in great pain, but I question whether this effort doesn’t cost them in some way. What spills out once the goal is achieved, the mark met, the door closed or the race is done? What after effect does pain bring to the one who bore it? Pain exists and is a part of human physiology for a reason. The nervous system is designed as it is to help us live and survive in the world. Pain actually helps us stay alive; it warns us of those things that hold a potential risk to harm us. Several studies have been completed on pain and the various coping methods that people use (See IASP for more).
So if we ignore it by pushing it out once too often, what is the consequence? If we grow numb to its’ clarion calls of warning, what real harm could we be doing to ourselves? One might say that there are times when the goal is so important, so critical, and so vital to the health and well-being of others that pain cannot be allowed to become a barrier. We take on suffering for the betterment of others. But, should this be an everyday or common theme in our lives?
Does ignored pain leave scars? I think it does (See Nursing Times for more). Pain can actually reshape how we move, breath, and think. Our bodies change to adapt pain. We carry our wounded parts differently. We take care with injured limbs. We cradle carefully whatever of our anatomy hurts. We do whatever we have to in order to safeguard what’s damage in us. We wall off the broken pieces in order to give it time and space to heal. In truth, I think we actually create new muscle memory in those areas of our bodies that surround damaged parts.
Ignoring pain, even if the cause is just, can cause us to cradle wounds psychically or emotionally over time. Ignoring pain is really a cognitive process. We ignore the pain mentally. We literally push it out. We push it out of our thoughts so that we can focus on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean the pain is gone, it just means that our active attention to its warning is diverted. So whatever damaging is being done continues while we push through it. All the psychic energy being amassed by the nervous system in response to the pain centers in the brain when we ignore pain sits, and sits, and sits, and then something gives. The dam breaks. A reaction to all the pent up energy manifests.
How or when this occurs varies in each of us. I think in some people the result of this dam breaking is spread out over time and space. These people manage to find someone to talk to or an activity to indulge in and they get to expend all the pent up energy created by the pain they ignored at different points in their past. I believe this is the preferred method and this is why it’s important to have a trusted confidant or spouse in your life.
Others, however, see very different outcomes from the release of this pent up energy. Some of these outcomes are devastating. Some of these outcomes result in suicide or harm to others. Makes you wonder whether some violent crimes or suicides could have been prevented had the victim or perpetrator had some way to constructively let out all the pent up energy from past wounds and scars be they physical or emotional? How much would that cost anyway? How much does it cost to listen to someone or to talk to someone that has been hurt or is hurting?
There is a significant body of research regarding how we cope with chronic pain (see this Review of the Literature).