Subjectively Painful?

Relatively Painful was a rant, expression of bemusement, and chapter of a personal saga. Another blogger’s response to that piece led me down a path of discovery that I will share at another time. However, a post by another writer the day after Easter moved me to say something now.

My point in Relatively Painful was pain’s subjectivity getting in the way of categorizing pain effectively. At least, it can when it comes to treatment. As I discovered by doing a little research, I am not the only person who feels that way. Several medical and academic works seemed to reach similar conclusions.

The blog inspiring today’s post brought up a more immediate concern. Pain is not always physical. Certainly, if you have a normally functioning nerve system, you will feel something if nature calls in the middle of the night and you stub your toe while trying to make it to the toilet without waking your bedmate.

However, physical pain may not be the only pain you feel when your toe runs into an immovable object. If you were doing your best to hold in whatever woke you up until you reached the toilet and the pain overrides your control, you may feel a new form of pain.

The new pain might be caused by your embarrassment and fear of admitting what happened to the person you were attempting to avoid waking. Yes, according to some sources, pain is not only physical. It can be psychological as well.

My buddy Sinn

The post moving me to share this piece discussed such pain. Pain that is not caused by an injury, infection, or microscopic organism attacking your body. Rather, it is caused by circumstances, psychological issues, and thoughts.

Some may think such pain is not real. Others may think it is real, but we should remember the childhood chant from ages gone by ending with “Words will never hurt me.” They will think such pain is only real if you let it be real.

I can attest to the fact pain triggered by an injury, as well as pain triggered by circumstances, can be felt. Does that mean the pain I felt when my parents had my closest childhood friend put down because the veterinarian thought that was the humane thing to do hurt less than the pain I felt flying over the handlebars of my motorcycle and landing face down on a gravel road?

No! Both of those incidents hurt deeply. The difference was the nature of the pain. Hitting the gravel road at speed was standing under a shower of hot rocks peeling the skin off your face and arms. It was the pain you felt when you skinned your knee falling on the sidewalk, magnified a few hundred times.

Walking into the house after school and finding out your best non-human friend, protector, and snuggle-buddy on a cold night was “put out of his misery” was different. It was a sickening feeling in the stomach and a hollowness in the chest. It was the feeling of trying to breathe, but the pain in your chest was so bad you couldn’t.

There was another difference as well. The pain from the wounds inflicted by the gravel lasted for days, and the signs of the encounter were visible for weeks. The pain of losing Sinn is always there, hiding behind some other memory, just waiting to remind me there is more to hurt than nerve damage.

© 2023

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4 Responses to Subjectively Painful?

  1. Jim says:

    A great post. Glad you’re doing some investigating!

    • Thanks! I’m not certain whether investigating and trying to understand other viewpoints or accepted practices that bother me is a blessing or a curse. Whatever it is I seem to be stuck with it. Makes life interesting if nothing else, even if I have to eat crow every once in a while.

  2. Phil Strawn says:

    A good post. A lot of people live with pain, either physical or mental. I live with both, having lost my oldest son to drugs in 2012, and then two years ago losing my beloved dog that was a gift from him. No one ever heals, we try to get through everyday as best we can. I gave my life to God many times, but for some reason he lets me feel that pain. There must be a reason, and one day I may find it. One again, a good account.

    • Phil, thanks for responding and sharing. Thankfully, I’ve not suffered the pain of losing a child. I have helped others deal with such a loss, and I, unfortunately, have been the messenger at times letting someone know they’ve suffered such a tragedy. The first and hardest was when I had to tell my mother that her baby, my little brother, was KIA in Vietnam. Helping her get through that was tough, but it helped prepare me for some of the things I’d face in the future. The question of why God allows us to continue to feel the pain is a good one, and I’ve heard all sorts of opinions on the matter. Like you, I hope to find out why someday. Eric

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