The way we think about pain could change how much we actually suffer
We’ve all got a story about pain. Maybe it’s that time you broke your arm skating, or the time you finished the game on a twisted ankle, or the 10 hours of labour without an epidural. Maybe your story of pain is a story of violence, the injury and trauma of an assault. Maybe it’s a story of terror. Or it’s heartbreak, the seemingly endless depths of grief and despair after a loss. Whatever it is, (almost) all of us have experienced what we call pain and we’re not in a hurry to experience it again.
But have you ever tried to define that pain? When you’re telling the story, how do you explain the pain? Do you try to quantify the injury – how many broken bones, the size of the bruise, the amount of blood? Or do you describe the cause – the type of cancerous cells, the crowning baby, the sharp knife? But what if there was no obvious cause? And how do you communicate the intensity? Is it a searing or scalding burn, a throbbing or dull pressure, a pounding or stabbing headache? Is it worse than a bee sting, but not as bad as a dog bite?
The more we try and suppress pain, the more we feel it
In one example, swearing lessened our feeling of pain