Thread: Pain
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Old 12-17-2009, 08:36 AM   #18
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,052
Re: Pain

Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I see more people use pain as an excuse to not so something. Some people are looking for an excuse and pain gives them one.

I respect the hell out of people that in spite of pain can stand up and smile with a good attitude and not let it stand in their way!
I agree with the sentiment that I believe is behind your words, but the phrase "not let it stand in their way" makes me wince. I hear phrases like that a lot, and they always make me want to say, "But it's not like that!" People like expressions like that because they're stirring and inspiring, but they misrepresent a complex, and occasionally bleak, reality. Unfortunately, they've also been appropriated by marketing execs who use them as throwaway lines to sell sports drinks, and are swallowed and regurgitated whole by the masses who want to believe that you can do anything and overcome anything if you just, gosh, well, try real hard. It's not like that.

The reality is that sometimes, pain does stand in the way and won't be moved, and saying that someone "lets it" do so is just another form of blaming the victim. Sometimes, pain does stand between where you are and what you want to do, at least for the moment. Pain (some kinds of it) often says "not today" or "not like that", and won't take no for an answer. For some unlucky people, it says "not ever again". How cruel is it to tell them that they're "let[ting] pain stand in their way"? They fought, and they lost. Sometimes that's the way it goes.

That's not to say that people do not persevere through pain and achieve great things -- or at least, more than anyone would ever give them credit for. But they persevere in complex ways, not by the stereotypical "Just Do It" that people imagine. A belief in "Just Do It" is in fact a denial of reality, and people who live in that reality know it. And they also know that what they can do now, they may not be able to do tomorrow. We are all temporarily able-bodied -- it's just that only some of us understand this, while the rest are in denial.

It's also not to say that pain doesn't serve as an excuse when it need not -- although lately I've taken to using the word "discomfort", at least in my own mind, to refer to these situations. The problem is that most people don't have good judgment about where that line is -- at least, most people in industrialized countries, where not many people do physical labor every day. I have a feeling that our ditch-digging ancestors had a much better sense of when pain meant a real problem, and when it just meant that you'd overdone it a bit or been idle too long or were new to an activity. I think the truth is that sedentary people are never going to take up an activity like aikido without experiencing discomfort that they will label as "pain", and "pain", to them, means a problem that must be alleviated, not endured. We're lucky to have a lot of new orthopedic knowledge in the past few decades, but the downside seems to be a common belief that any activity that causes knee pain (for example) must be ceased immediately and never resumed, or you'll completely trash your knee for life. Orthopedic horror stories, unfortunately, furnish plenty of excuses for people not to do something -- never mind if they have no bearing on your situation -- and if you feel pain, well, that's an orthopedic horror story in the making.
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