Pain shoots into the brain as raw data from billions of nerve cells. It’s how our bodies alert us to danger and damage. It uses whatever volume level is necessary to get our attention and compel us to act in self-defense.
All pain is in the head; it originates and dwells there. It does not exist until we feel it in our brains. How we choose to process it with our minds is the single most important factor in determining pain’s impact. Our minds hold the key to pain and suffering. (The distinction between brain and mind is a subject for another post.)
Pain is the gift nobody wants but everybody needs from time to time. Minor incidents we can take in stride but what happens when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune puncture our defenses and pin us to the ground?
In his book, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants Dr. Paul Brand suggests we can prepare for such attacks by taking out pain insurance in advance. Based on a lifetime’s work with leprosy and other heinous diseases, the good doctor noticed five disciplines that helped people conquer pain rather than being destroyed by it:
- Gratitude – find the silver lining in the cloud; accentuate the positive.
- Listening – focus on the needs and concerns of others; don’t shrink your horizon to your circumstances.
- Activity – stay as productive as possible; idleness is debilitating and deadly.
- Self mastery – exercise control of whatever aspects of life you can, even if it’s only your attitude.
- Community – we are communal creatures who need others to survive and thrive.
I can confirm the efficacy of these habits based on my own experience. Practicing them as a lifestyle is the best way to prepare for, endure and redeem pain and suffering.