How many of us love the concept of Pain? Physical pain, of certain amount is inevitable and healthy too. Physical exercise, dieting, hardwork might be physically painful yet are healthy pain helping us grow. In fact, without pain there is hardly any growth. But that NEVER implies that Pain becomes a deliberately chosen and cherished aspect of our emotional life. The danger begins when we, consciously or subconsciously, love being in pain and nurture it in self-deceptive ways. Psychology calls this Pain Addiction.
But I don’t love pain! Pain is a reality! And I am a realist.
Cool! We must acknowledge reality as is. But if that reality is destroying us shouldn’t we try change it? What good is it to say “I acknowledge my house is on fire!” but do nothing about putting it out? Bizarre, right? Same with pain.
But I want happiness. How can you say I love pain?
The simplest way to know the answer is to check what we internally believe about Pain and how we deal with Pain. You know that relationship is messing you up. Yet you chime, “What is love without some pain?” (Unfortunately, this culturally accepted concept of ‘love’ is but another neurotic need of the Mind to continue feeling pain. The real version of Love has No emotionally messy pain involved.) You know that drinking habit is no real solution. You nevertheless drink yourself to ‘happy stupor’ until next morning. That saddest novel you keep re-reading. That tragic movie that you watched 27 times already. All the pitiful drama you are easily attracted to. You know your life choices are not bringing you freedom and peace but you philosophize constantly about metaphysical reality of human pain to justify being in pain.
This is especially true with our intelligentsia today. Postmodern literature and philosophy are hell-bent on not only staring at Pain as Realism (which was still fine) but also to kiss it deep-throated till life chokes on it. Today’s literati, artists, poets, philosophers, pamphleteers all simply love to glorify Pain. And we see them and shake our heads gravely, going, “Its Reality of life! A wonderful mess! Pain is glorious! Agony is being alive” And then we say, “I want a happy and fulfilling life.” But that’s impossible. You CANNOT cherish pain and be truly fulfilled and peaceful at the same time.
So, how relentless are we in our pursuit of inner peace? Is our hunger for peace stronger than our intellectual and emotional addiction to pain? Are we willing to be open to discard these pseudo-intellectual theories of pain as unhealthy and unnecessary? Are we willing to turn our lives upside down, if need be, to do away with every life choice and mental patterns that perpetuate emotional agony and dysfunctionality?
Why We Love Pain
Neuropsychiatry links Pain Addiction to the bio-chemistry of brain releasing Endorphins when we experience physical or emotional pain. Endorphins act akin to drugs like heroin. This secretion numbs our senses, giving us a false sense of high, helping us cope with pain. Exposed over a long period to regular release of Endorphins in the blood turns addictive and the brain urges us to seek forms of pain continuously to keep the inflow of Endorphins. That’s why it is often difficult to ruthlessly say ‘No’ to pain triggers. People having decided on healthier choices often loop because they go through Pain Withdrawal almost as drug withdrawals.
Psychology, perhaps without disagreeing to this explanation, tackles it rather from the Mind plane – To get rid of Pain is often perceived by our subconscious Mind as too huge a price to pay. Pain has its own mileage. Our Mind is clever enough to reckon that pain aids our victim identity. And victimhood is the easiest of all the identities we can forge. It exacts attention, sympathy, and entitlements of varied sorts. Pain also makes us perceive ourselves as martyrs. Martyrs to our relationships, our situations, even society. The Mind deceives us to believe that we are suffering because we good, responsible, righteous. It lifts us from one distorted extreme of self-pity and self-loathing to another of a self-righteous feel-good pseudo-martyrdom. And our Mind loves it because blind to its True self it desperately needs other false identities to survive amidst deep-seated inner issues.
How do I know? Because I too, most of my life, was a believer in Pain. Fed on Bollywood and Hollywood rom-coms, Mills & Boons and even on globally revered Literature classics, I too subscribed to this faulty intertwining of ‘love and pain’. My University education fed me with lofty discourses like Nihilism, Existentialism and The Absurd of human condition and I further lived and breathed pain as the undeniable Truth. Of course, as a result, I subconsciously kept attracting endless nightmarish pain scenarios in my life. Thankfully, humans come with a finite pain threshold. No matter how much we love pain, a stage arrives when Life breaks us beyond all our intellectual exercises. It’s then that transformation begins. That was my wake up call too. Thereafter through years of professional support I learnt to dethrone Pain from its mystical throne. I am a poet. My poetic philosophy too, that once hailed pain and nihilism, has undergone transformation and today I write about Pain, but transcending Pain. (You can find my poems on my blog – )
Pain eventually breaks us to make us more open to learn – to unlearn our faulty notions regarding Pain itself. Then, like a drowning child, we gasp for survival, asking, “Did I miss out something?”
Why wait till the water is above our head? Denial of Pain is repression, therefore reinforced pain. Cherishing it keeps us trapped in more pain. Only, to acknowledge Pain and to further acknowledge our unhealthy (cultural) obsession with and (personal, subconscious) addiction to Pain brings freedom. Human Mind is sly hence one often needs professional guidance to fully understand and deal with hidden inherent Pain Addiction. Although it’s culturally an unfamiliar (hence fearful?) idea yet it’s absolutely worth experiencing how living above pain is still ‘being alive’ – that life above pain is Not boring grey but full of colors even without those emotional roller coaster of agony and mess. Question remains – are we ready to embrace such a life, even if it costs us the unhealthy comfort zones our familiar romance with Pain so far offered us? Trust me, it is indeed a very small price compared to that life of absolute freedom and healing.
Take care, dear Mind.
© & Author : Nivedita Dey, 2016
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