by Dr Patrick Quanten MD
Pain is not the cause of our suffering.
Pain is an opportunity to learn, to grow.
When a child burns it's hand on a hot stove, it is in terrible pain. We rally around to soothe the pain and to comfort the child, but we do not blame the stove for being hot or for being in the wrong place. The child learns from this pain that increasing heat can lead to hurt and pain.
As we grow into "sensible and intelligent" adults we respond differently to pain.
We look at pain as something alien that has been done to us. The pain is caused by - and therefore the responsibility lies with - this horrible disease, the environmental pollution, the unfair working conditions, the weather, the food, the boss, one's mother, the dog, dust mite, the mattress, the shoes, the pea in the bed. Pain is only considered to be a negative experience; there is nothing to be gained from it; it is a total and utter waste of time. Take it away. Do it now!
So, dealing with pain can be divided into two categories. One is the perceived outside cause of the pain needs to be removed; or two, where this seems impossible, one aims to take the pain itself away. From a personal point of view, the only role the individual plays in this drama is the one of the victim. Either it is up to someone else to remove my pain, or whoever or whatever has caused my pain should go away. It is this belief itself which is responsible for much of our recurrent and increasing pain. The simple reason being that if we do not learn, we will be confronted with similar problems over and over again. We will continue to burn our hand, if we belief that it is up to the hot stove to go away.
What is it that we need to learn?
The common denominator in all one's pains is oneself. The circumstances may change, the people may be different, the environment in which one meets pain may be different; the excuses are different every time. We are the only constant feature in a lifetime of pain episodes. Why is it so difficult for us, "sensible and intelligent" adults to understand that it is up to him/her to avoid that particular gesture and to take note of the increasing temperature whilst approaching a hot object? The result is that the child does not get burned again, but the adult keeps on hurting himself.
Looking at one's own part in this pain play is not really about blaming oneself. It should be about understanding and comprehension. If the reason for one's pain lies within oneself then that means first of all that one is equipped with a learning device which is totally under one's own control. Secondly, it gives one the opportunity of free choice and therefore of control over one's life. Deciding that this pain is no longer needed, this warning signal has been acknowledged, can consequently lead to taking note of the real reason for the pain, such as: unhappiness (as an employee, as a husband, as a child, as a carer, as a role model, etc.) Or on the other hand, one can decide that at this moment, dealing with the real reason for the pain is beyond one's strength. The great advantage at this point is still having achieved the awareness of the real mechanisms involved and having therefore discarded the need to blame the exterior for what one feels. That in itself is a major step forward, even when we decide to live with the pain.
So we need to learn that pain is something our own system produces to alert us to dangers that are upsetting our balance, and that this alarm system is situated and functions within us.
But we already know that!
We already know that we only feel pain when our mind is ready to receive that message. A sports person deeply involved in an absorbing contest will not feel the pain of, sometimes grave, injuries until that person can detach him/herself from the encounter, until the brain is ready to gather the information and create the pain stimulus. It is not the physical injury which create the pain, it is the brain; the physical injury was already there, not causing any pain or discomfort, until the brain organised the pain. Other proof for this we find in general anaesthesia where severe physical injury is inflicted without causing any pain whatsoever. Similar results can be achieved under hypnosis. So, pain is not caused by the exterior, it is caused internally, by the brain.
Similarly, outside influences such as human relationships, circumstances, environment, etc. are not responsible for one's pain. If they were then we would all suffer given the same influences, but we obviously don't. Here also the pain is caused inside, by the brain. Complicated connections are made that lead us to believe this particular thing must be painful and hurtful. Again people prove to us that walking barefooted across hot burning coal does not only not have to be painful, but also does not have to leave any marks on the skin. In other words, even the skin does not believe that this is painful!
Now that we have rediscovered what we already knew, we better start believing it fast. Aren't we running out of patience with pain? The growing number of people screaming to the medical profession and related therapists for pain relief form an army of evidence that we are desperately in need of finding out what pain is really all about and what the mechanisms involved are. We need to leave behind the blame and guilt that we spread all around us and change it into a beautiful opportunity to take control of our lives and grow into "sensitive" children.
Dr Patrick Quanten MD