Dying Daily #258: Gratitude for Pain

We need pain in life.

That reminds me of the things people sometimes post in response to a break-up or the cancellation of their favorite show, often with a Naruto meme. While that kind of pain may be just as real, today we are talking about physical pain. Maybe we can talk about the the other kind before this gratitude series is over.

Gratitude for emotional pain is much fuzzier though.

Pain is a universal experience for the most part, something we can all understand.

It helps connect us to other humans if we let it, and even gives us a sense of resonance with all life in some way. It is why we have empathy and understanding for suffering we may not even have a reference point for, and why we seek to move toward and help others.

Physical pain is a warning light, our body telling us something is wrong and that it needs care.

The pain of your hand on a hot stove is better than a life-endangering injury, and breaking your arm doing daredevil stunts causes enough pain that you are less likely to lose your whole life on something even more foolish. There are people who do not feel pain, and many do not make it out of childhood due to the lack of lessons that pain teaches. Pain is there to keep us alive, to help us learn how to navigate through this world. A child crying with a busted nose is also a child learning about running through the house with a bucket on their head.

But what about pain that cannot be fixed, chronic pain that is not serving the function of warning or teaching  us?

There is good here too, as it provides us an opportunity to lean into something unpleasant, to sit with things not being as we would prefer them to be. There can be a deep peace in accepting our experience as it is, in realizing that we are more than the experience of our body and thoughts.

It’s not always easy, but it’s there.