Some Notes on the Experience of Pain

Some months back I had a stomach upset of some description, accompanied by an uncommon amount of pain. I wrote a little about it then, but was not sure if I should post it here. I have decided that I should, if only to try to overcome some niggling insecurities about revealing my own thoughts and personal experiences.

Here I will indulge myself a little. At present I am in a reasonable amount of pain, and I thought to document the experience. I rarely experience any significant degree of pain, which is a blessing, but which I suspect leaves me somewhat unprepared for it when it strikes. Through fasting I have become accustomed to the sensation of hunger, and through repeated experience its severity has been much lessened. This is not the case with pain, which I experience so rarely that it affects me more intensely than is probably justified.

It is interesting the way our subjective experiences can shape the way we perceive the world, affect the way we think about the entirety of life. In uncommon pain or sickness, I become very much the pessimist, whereas I am typically possessed of a fairly positive disposition. Strong pain makes me want to throw all to oblivion, to damn the world. It all seems a pointless waste of light. Why should the sun glorify the earth, when all is cruel and callous? It is the stuff of adolescent self-pity, to be sure, but this is what my unconscious mind whispers to me.

This all confirms to me that we are simple creatures of habit and intuition. If the outlook I have cultivated, which is equal parts an attempt at objectivity and what I fancy is a practical poetic streak, is so easily disturbed by sensations, how objective have I been really, in my usual, pleasant state of existence? I can only hope that my usual state aligns with reality more closely than my present state. At the very least, I reason, my normal state of being largely allows me to forget my own being, which hopefully allows for objectivity, whereas pain draws attention to itself and dominates the mind.

We can also reverse this process however, we can influence our experience through a forceful perception of the world. When I willfully adopt a positive countenance, my pain is lessened. This speaks to the potency of mindfulness, the mere awareness of this causal link, between my experience and my perception, allows me to correct for it. I can assert that, though my perceptions have changed, the world has not, and therefore decide that I must reassess things and try to regain some objectivity. The mere recognition, that despite what my experience implies the world has not changed, suggests that the pain itself, which is not felt in the world but only in my own mind, is somewhat illusory, and this can diminish it further.

I hope my thoughts here do not seem too unbearably sophomoric, the nature of experience is a somewhat recent interest of mine. At the very least, writing this has proved a useful distraction from the pain, which is now lessened.


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