English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...

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My thoughts on our ability to deal with pain

I wonder if we all have a different capacity to cope with pain. For a start, what sort of pain am I talking about?

1. Primarily I am talking about emotional pain or mental anguish. Do our genes determine our capacity to deal with pain in a positive or negative way. There are many ways of relieving emotional pain. It can be blocked out by drugs or alcohol. It can also be subsumed within a relationship with another person. I am talking about co-dependency here. It is when I am so absorbed with what is happening in your life, your pain, that my own pain is suppressed and appears non-existent.

2. I cannot speak much about physical pain apart from having three natural births and experience with arthritis in my spine and neck. To be in pain can be all-consuming – nothing else matters. Again this sort of pain can be treated to some degree with medication. Is it different to emotional pain?

Sometimes I see people and wonder about their lives and how they are coping with life in general.  Is it true that we all live lives of quiet desperation? I used to smoke and believed it helped me cope with stress. I gave it up 10+ years ago. Many people still smoke and are addicted to it. Others over-eat or drink too much to ease their pain. Many find some solace in religion/spirituality.

Is this the norm in society? Are there people who don’t experience much pain at all? If so, what is different about them that enables them to experience life differently? Is it just a matter of positive thinking, mindfulness, self-talk, belief in a higher power? There is an enormous industry out there that caters to all tastes for healing and personal growth (just take a look in my book-case :-))

Even if we are relatively pain-free, we can be aware of the suffering of others. We can feel their pain through our empathy and understanding. Do we all have the capacity for empathy and understanding or does that only come after a period of personal pain or loss?

Recently I was talking with a friend who is having some problems. Having two failed marriages behind me, I could really feel what he was experiencing. What was so difficult for me was that there was absolutely nothing I could do to shelter him from this experience. I thought about this a lot and came to the conclusion that “it is, what it is”. As far as I know, we all experience hard times and there really is no escape from it. We can dream of an ideal world or an ideal family but I come back to “it is, what it is!”

Maybe some people are less sensitive and therefore don’t feel pain as much as others, however I suspect they may be hiding their pain behind something or someone. Maybe that is ok and what makes us into a community. I understand that some people find their beliefs bring comfort in times of pain. Discovering the answers to these questions is an ongoing process for me.

Thanks for reading thus far!