Pain Is Relative

Posted: 29th October 2011 by Duality in Pain

We are all wired differently.  Its why some people think bleu cheese is tasty and people like me think its one of the more vile concoctions God ever allowed  to be created on Earth.  When you get right down to it, pain is the same way.  Everyone feels pain differently.  Grace can get off on it.  I can’t.  But I will admit that its possible that instead of can’t its won’t but that’s a whole other topic.  Pain simply isn’t felt the same for everyone.  You can have two people stub their big toe in the exact same manner and have one of them shrug and continue on their way while the other falls over writhing in agony.  Pain is, at its core, an intensely personal thing.

That brings us to my pet peeve.  Its one that I have to swallow most of the time because so I don’t I sound like an asshole.  But this is a blog, my neck and head are killing me, and I need a topic.  The pet peeve is being told that my pain isn’t anything like yours or words close to that sentiment.  Real quick here I’m going to say this isn’t directed at Luna who basically said my pet peeve in the comments.  This is just my observations on the topic.  If anything I’m thanking Luna for giving me a post idea at a time where focusing on things is hard.  Otherwise I’d have to tell more hotel stories.  So, with that out of the way…where were we?  Oh, right.  Me being an asshole.

Understand my problem with the saying isn’t really on my end of the equation.  I know people who hear that saying and think to themselves, “How could you possibly know how much pain I’m in?” and get angry over it.  These people need to have a pity party and get over it.  My problem with the saying is on the commenter’s end of the equation.  Why are you devaluing what you went through?  How do you know that your pain really is that different from my own?  My pain can be weird.  Really, really weird.  I’ve dislocated my thumb before and not realized it until I went to pick something up with it.  I then popped it back into place and carried on as if nothing had happened.  And yet, if you look at my neck and back on x-rays you won’t find anything severely wrong but my brain is currently telling me someone has jabbed an ice pick through my spine at the base of my head.  So don’t compare your pain to mine.  Its not a fair thing to do to either of us, but especially you.

Instead, what I try to do is focus on the limitations an injury can cause.  I have a friend who had a stroke.  She had to relearn how to walk because of it, which is something I had to go through after having both knees replaced.  Obviously that’s an apples and oranges situation, but I can still commiserate with her about going through the therapy.  I can still make her laugh at the crap I did while I went through that time in my life.  Really, that’s what those people need to hear.  When you are in a lot of pain or find yourself suddenly limited in your life you can feel alone.  Very alone.  Its those connections to people that weathered similar storms that help you through it.  We like to hear about people who made it through fine with things that are close to what we are going through.  Try not to add in the caveat about it not being anywhere near as bad as they are going through because that diminishes the hope you just built for them.

With all that being said, I’m still just as guilty of saying it from time to time as everyone else is.  I’ll say it differently, but that’s no excuse especially considering the whole asshole reaction thing to it.  I’ll say something like, “I really can’t fathom what you are going through”.  You don’t want to hear that when you’re in a bad situation.  You don’t.  It makes the situation look that more impossible and you have to burn energy that you really can’t afford to burn to turn what was just said into a positive.  Sometimes its hard to stay upbeat.  Its easy to have a pity party, you know?  Its really easy just to sit there and let the gloom consume you.  Then you have to fight your way back out of it.  I’ve been there, I know how it goes.  So I try really hard not to add to that.  I try to help someone feel connected because its really easy to feel disconnected.  Pain can act like a wall.  Subs know this better then most since they not only build walls to keep pain out, but also use the pain as a wall itself to block the world out and go into their own head space and float for a bit.

Anyway, that’s my perspective on it.  And yeah, I know how it can look when I rant like this.  I’ve taken the step back and looked at my reaction before and I do find it odd that I react this way.  I mean, its not even self righteous anger.  Its anger directed at the speaker for devaluing themselves.  So yeah, I know that’s a little messed up but its just how I’m built.  So if I have offended, I do apologize.

  1. lunaKM says:

    You’re welcome. :P

  2. Conina says:

    I like this post. You’re absolutely right. I hit my husband once (so, so lightly) with one of our floggers (at his request) and he just about jumped out of his skin saying “THAT HURTS!”

    The same stroke applied to me does nothing at all.

    However, I think devaluing what we have gone through ourselves is a thing most of us have been socialized to do. It’s exactly to prevent the “How dare you assume to know what I’m going through!” kind of reaction. It’s a caveat, a smiley face added on the sentence, a way out in case the addressed person takes offense.

    Hard thing to undo.

  3. Duality says:

    I understand that aspect of it. I think my viewpoint comes from being told that phrase over, and over, and over again. When you’re 26 and getting both knees replaced, everyone wants to treat you like you’re pissed off at the world and they feel you’re already well into the self pity mode so they’ll just affirm that for you. So I know I’m odd and I know that the remark is probably the polite thing to say… it just got old in a hurry for me.

  4. Rogue Bambi says:

    I think that phrase goes well with “just relax and don’t think about it”. Like it’s an option, like it would help. Mental pain is no less real than physical pain. What I noticed about pain, though, when I had my hormone induced “period”, was that suffering from an abnormal scale of pain cleanses the mind out of anything else. I really had no worries and no sorrows for the duration of the pain (two days). It was so… I’d use the word intense, but that sounds too positive, a pain I’d like to experience… It was excruciating. It was pain well over my limits and ability to take. So, there was some good in my coping with it, I think. A realisation of sorts, and also the experience of not being overwhelmed by emotional storms like I usually am.

    Also, I’ve been told I have a low pain tolerance. Over and over and over again. Just because some women’s period cramps are more in the lines of a bloated tummy, not some bloody masscre going down. It doesn’t help that people feel the need to comment on my pain tolerance (which might or might not be the reason for it). The pain is no less real.

    I’ve been known to handle some intense pain (see, here it is in its right place!) without any, well mostly without complaints. I’m also adept at keeping on functioning even while I’m hurting probably because I hurt pretty easily and have lived to cope with that. But I don’t go on smacking people in the back when they’ve hurt their pinkie and telling them “’tis only a flesh wound, just get over it”.

    Pain is personal. Why would I devalue anybody’s experience by not accepting that? Whatever Wonderboy might feel about the pain he bestowes me, I trust that he will follow my singlals and not his. It is my pain, after all.

  5. lil says:

    For some reason this post reminded me of our insurance adjuster saying I wasn’t in pain after my car accident because “pain is relative.”

    Anyways, what I really wanted to say is that I think this was quite well said:
    “Pain can act like a wall. Subs know this better then most since they not only build walls to keep pain out, but also use the pain as a wall itself to block the world out and go into their own head space and float for a bit.”