Most of us think of pain only as suffering. And not just suffering, but suffering in its most raw and physical form. Of course, this is for good reason—pain, whether it’s from a scraped knee or broken arm, is a distinctly unpleasant sensation. Pain hurts.
This perception of pain is what defines our relationship to it. Pain is something we hate and fear, like an invisible bogeyman hiding in our bodies always ready to do us harm.
So what do we do when we feel pain? We try to get rid of it.
Headache? Take these painkillers. Nasty breakup? Drown your pain in Pinot Grigio.
But if we look at pain objectively, we’ll see that pain isn’t bad at all. Pain is our body’s voice, and what it’s telling us is our body is out of balance.
If you swim underwater long enough, you’ll feel pain in your lungs. That’s your body telling you it needs oxygen. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you’ll feel burning pain in your hand. That’s your body telling you your hand is overheating. If you don’t drink anything all day, you’ll feel parched. That’s your body telling you it needs water.
In each of these examples, pain is a message telling us something is wrong. If we listen to the message, we can fix the problem. If your body needs oxygen, you come up for air. If your hand is in danger, you move it. If you’re thirsty, you drink. But if we ignore the message, the problem gets worse, and if we ignore it long enough, the problem can even kill us. Stay underwater for ten minutes and you’ll drown. Don’t drink for a week and you’ll die of dehydration.
Of course, our body’s voice isn’t always that easy to understand. Even something as simple as a headache can have more than a dozen causes, from bad posture to all that Pinot Grigio. But if we can learn to listen, we’ll become more attuned to the imbalances in our body.