Someone recently said to me, “I can understand where Jane is coming from,” in response to Jane expressing she was in pain. It was because of this understanding that the someone approved of Jane’s pain.
Another someone said, “I don’t feel sorry for her,” in response to another Jane expressing pain over a situation the someone didn’t believe should cause pain.
In reality, their approval and disapproval doesn’t make the pain being felt a reality or a myth. The pain exists regardless.
Someone else told me, “It’s freedom of speech. You can’t let words hurt you.”
Maybe words don’t hurt that someone, but he or she doesn’t represent the entire race of human beings.
What is it with rationalizing pain?
We don’t need to understand or approve of it for it to exist.
In fact, it doesn’t need to go any further than an expression of pain for it to be clear it exists in that moment.
I’ve got a bright light bulb for everyone: The only thing anyone needs to relate to pain is to have been in pain, in any of its form, themselves. If you have ever been in pain, then that is all that is required to understand it, relate to it and empathize with it. Moving beyond there, dissecting it, trying to force it away by saying something should or shouldn’t cause pain is ignorant and cruel.
We all experience it differently. Different things hurt or do not hurt different people. But if someone says, “I am in pain,” then stop right there, because since you have felt pain, then you can empathize and can verify its existence, again, not that you are required or ever needed to do so. I am confident the person in pain can do this.
Let’s discuss pain briefly.
Researchers from the University of Michigan, Columbia University and the University of Colorado found that when it is in the processing stage, the brain makes little distinction between physical and emotional or psychological pain.
So a punch is, say, processed the same as something that would be considered an emotional assault.
It gets better.
In an article published in Psychological Science, researchers indicated that emotional pain is basically worse than physical pain, not during the processing stage but in terms of the lasting impact.
Dr. Kip Williams from Purdue said, “While both types of pain can hurt very much at the time they occur, social pain has the unique ability to come back over and over again, whereas physical pain lingers only as an awareness that it was indeed at one time painful.”
Free speech shouldn’t be used to inflict pain, maliciously, or not, in some cases. If you really examine it, one could say that for an intelligent individual, words are his or her tools or weapon, able to be wielded in intensely hurtful ways without the worry of getting into trouble. For a less intelligent person who is strong, maybe the physical is that individual’s only tool or weapon, except he or she might not use it for fear of getting in trouble, even though studies show the person inflicting emotional pain is actually causing more harm.
I say don’t use either, though the existing system does seem sort of backwards and unfair.
Pain is pain.
I mean, yes, if someone tells us it hurts that person when we breathe, well, that is going to be a difficult pain to remedy. I guess I’d just stay away from the person.
But often, we refuse to recognize pain, let alone alleviate it for someone, because after we go through our rationalizing process, we determine the pain should not exist. That is unfair, cruel and basically like looking at all the evidence out there and saying, “The world is flat.”
If we do decide, in our infinite wisdom, to recognize it, the next step would be doing something about it. Obviously that will be difficult and/or impossible at times, but in many instances it simply involves a change in language, ignoring that something might not bother us in a given situation and lending a hand or a hug, and standing up for someone even when we don’t understand or agree with the reason that person is in pain.
An important thing to remember too, is that often, when someone’s pain triggers a defensive reaction in us, we should look within and examine ourselves, because while not always, that is a strong indicator we are guilty of something.
Pain is pain, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see less of it in the world.
And let’s be real, everyone who is ignorant in one moment, wants their pain relieved when they are experiencing it.
Reach Editor Stephen Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.