What Is Pain?

Yesterday I had surgery on my tongue. A few months back, I went to see my Doctor because of some white spots on my tongue. I’ve had them for years, but recently they started feeling irritated. My Doctor recommended a visit with an ENT (Ear, nose and throat) Doctor. While the ENT was looking at my tongue he found a HPV (human papiloma virus) lesion. HPV is the leading cause of throat cancer. So he said that would have to be removed and at the same time he’d take the white spots. Now I’m waiting for the results. I go back to see him in five days.

Visiting the ENT brought up the issue of pain. He told me a few times that I wouldn’t like him very much after the surgery, and I asked him why. “This is going to be very painful,” he said. The tongue is a very sensitive area, as anyone who’s ever accidentally bitten their tongue can tell you. I told him I wasn’t worried about it. I told him I have a high tolerance to pain. He didn’t ask me to elaborate but I’m sure he’ll bring it up again, when I see him next. He’s probably used to people freaking out about pain. I think I’m going to tell him to stop telling his patients that they’re not going to like him after tongue surgery. It probably just makes it worse for them.

The concepts of good and bad are social constructs. You may hate lasagna, and I may love it. Does that make lasagna good or bad? It can’t be both right? Lasagna can’t be both good and bad at the same time, can it? It can, depending on who you ask. What does that tell us? It tells us that we make up our own minds about what is good and what is bad. Each cancels the other out showing us that there’s no such thing as good or bad. We make them up based on our likes and dislikes. So pain, is neither good nor bad. Pain is just pain. Lasagna is just lasagna. It’s all in how you see things.

Was the surgery painful? After coming out of the anesthesia, my tongue was sore. As the day went on, the pain increased. Last night, I hardly slept, but today my tongue feels better. The difference for me is that I don’t react to pain the way a lot of other people do. Pain is just pain, it’s neither good or bad. It’s just simply something you have to go through once in a while. I think my Doctor was surprised by my reaction to it. But that’s good. Maybe if he stops telling people how to feel, they can feel the way they want to instead of expecting to be upset by it. If you realize that you don’t have to apply a label of good or bad to things, you stop thinking of them as good or bad and begin to think of them as simply things that are, and deal with them accordingly.

Many of us agree on what is bad and what is good. Things that cause harm are bad, things that don’t cause harm are good. We have lot’s of social movements happening around the country, and the world, trying to rid society of things we deem bad. And that’s great. I’ve been caught up in a few of them myself. There’s nothing wrong with labeling something good or bad, in fact we need to do that in order to make a better world. But that doesn’t mean we have to label everything good or bad. There are many things that we can see as neutral, such as physical pain. Or lasagna. I happen to love lasagna, so I see it as good. No offense to lasagna haters. Think about this the next time you feel pain. One of the reasons we have an epidemic of drug use today is because of people’s aversion to pain. My Doctor told me he was going to give me Oxycontin for the pain after my surgery and I told him no, don’t give me anything. He’s so used to people having an aversion to pain that he doesn’t even ask if you want it. I think we need a better way to look at things. Less drugs and more realization that we can control how we feel, without drugs. It is okay to feel pain. It’s just a feeling.

Now I know that many people are in severe pain from injury or illness. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about average people who feel pain sometimes. I had my gall bladder removed through laparoscopic surgery. The Doctor gave me Vicodin for the pain. I took half of the recommended dose and it made me high. I found I’d rather feel the pain instead of the stoned feeling I got from the medication so I didn’t take anymore. Did it hurt? Sure it did. But pain is just pain, it’s just a thing you have to go through once in a while. I found that if I concentrated on something else, I didn’t feel the intensity of the pain and after a few days, it went away. Humans have the incredible ability to control their brains, and override any feeling they have. It takes practice, but it can be done.

2 comments

  1. Hope you are healing well. Funny thing about labeling things. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun, likes to remind us that things just “are.” They aren’t “good” or “bad” they just are. We *make* them “good” or “bad” by labeling them.
    You sound so “Buddhist”-I love this:
    “The concepts of good and bad are social constructs. You may hate lasagna, and I may love it. Does that make lasagna good or bad? It can’t be both right? Lasagna can’t be both good and bad at the same time, can it? It can, depending on who you ask. What does that tell us? It tells us that we make up our own minds about what is good and what is bad. Each cancels the other out showing us that there’s no such thing as good or bad. We make them up based on our likes and dislikes. So pain, is neither good nor bad. Pain is just pain. Lasagna is just lasagna. It’s all in how you see things.”
    And you are so right, and so wise, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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