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Old 11-21-2012, 08:16 AM   #6
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,056
Re: The nescessity of pain for progression in Aikido

"Pain" is another of those words (like "power", being discussed in another thread) that has so many meanings that it needs additional clarification if you want to discuss whether it's good or bad, useful or harmful. When asking patients to assess their pain level, medical professionals commonly ask them to state it on a scale for 1 to 10, where 1 is almost nothing and 10 is "the worst pain you can imagine". Right off the bat, you can see that my 10 and your 10 are different. One person's pain is another person's discomfort, and when people live in situations where they can largely opt out of discomfort, they may lose the ability to distinguish between the two. Consider someone who lives in a cold climate, but who lives in a comfortable, centrally heated house. When they go to work, they walk into their heated garage, get into their car, drive to work, and get perhaps 30 feet of exposure to the climate as they walk into the office. Then one cold winter day, they don't have access to their car for some reason. This person now has to walk several blocks to the bus stop, wait for the bus in the cold, sit (or stand) on the bus (which is either way too hot or way too cold), and then walk several blocks to the office from the bus stop. Other people who ride the bus every day throw on an extra layer to stay warm, but this person, rather than adapting strategies to tolerate the discomfort, labels it "pain" and externalizes the problem, complaining incessantly: oh my god it's so cold, oh my god this bus is so overheated, dammit it's hard to stand up on this bus, and so crowded, these people take up too much room, why did that woman have to bring a stroller during rush hour, etc.

Discomfort happens; it's part of life. Heat, cold, body aches, sickness, injuries, exposure to new and challenging ideas, death of a loved one, attitude from a barista, loss of a job, a chewing-out by your boss...they're all somewhere on the discomfort scale, and we'll all probably experience all of them at some point. At one extreme, you can view them all as harmful and to be avoided; at the other extreme, there's a rather fatuous pollyanna-esque tendency to try to see them all as potential gateways to enlightenment or self-improvement or what have you. I tend to think that the good-bad scale is just not an appropriate one: discomfort/pain has more than one single dimension, so trying to see it as a continuum doesn't make sense. On the one hand, you can probably learn something from any discomfort -- ideally, you can learn compassion; minimally, you can learn how to take care of yourself better, or strategies for endurance -- but on the other hand, it may be something you already know. If you already know the lesson and have the opportunity to opt out of a repeat, why wouldn't you?
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