The Benefit of Pain


Our minds are collections of ideas. Sometimes these ideas do not all fit together – they contradict one another and cannot all be true. When they lie together at once in the focus of consciousness, on the surface of thought, then we perceive their conflict clearly – we feel pain, and we feel sadness. The patterns in our minds are at war with each other, and we fear what will happen, and the possibility of losing parts of ourselves – parts of the idea web in which we emulate reality. The internal model we construct of the world around us needs to change, and it can seem scary and something to fear – but it isn’t.

The benefits of pain are overlooked. They go unseen because most people aren’t very introspective, and seldom probe deeply into their own lives. Most people behave as if their lives are something handed to them, almost immutable. They do not consider themselves actors, but observers – and so that’s what they are. The actors are the ones who accept that they can – and so do – use the power we have as beings: the power to shape and change reality. They are the ones engaging their instinctual urges to contribute to the creation of something greater than ourselves in the hierarchy and complexity of life. As cells are to us, we are to society, and societies will be to something else; we represent one shifting stage in the evolution of life: interactions growing more connected and more filled with delicate complexity. Those who do not accept life as given and absolute – they learn to question, to understand and to imagine. They learn to examine themselves and their own thoughts. They become more alive, and learn greater control over themselves and over their minds – the collection of thoughts – the intertwined web of ideas.


Rain, Steam and Speed – Turner

The web of ideas needs maintenance. It is our life’s work to, thought by thought, puzzle out a picture of what is around us. We start off with a canvas full of conflicting colours and lines, that, stroke by stroke, grows slowly in clarity and depth until we feel the sharp sensation of our own existence, and experience the reality of the so-called ‘human condition’. It is difficult, but it is undeniably forward. To play well, you must understand the rules; to make choices about the world, you need to understand the world. The world is everything around us, and it includes ourselves. There lies the battle – the seemingly paradoxical feat – of making an image that includes itself. Overtime, more and more of us accept the burden, and once we make some headway with our own journeys we realise another awaits us, this one by nature not alone – the wagon train moving ever forward; the vanguard of humanity. To join, we must each find our way there – discover the parts that need playing, and the parts we want to play. This requires acceptance and clear vision of ourselves – Including acceptance, and clear vision of our pains.


Hand with Reflecting Sphere – Escher

Pain helps us find our way. Pain, beyond scraped knees and broken bones, is the experience of conflict in our inner network – it is indication of a contradiction – and the chance for its examination, understanding, and potential resolution. Pain is a signal in our brain that something can and should be given attention: a knot must be undone; a bundle must be untangled; a problem must be solved. If we accept that it really is a signal, then it really can be used as such. We can calmly question and probe at the cause of the pain; we can carefully consider the ideas we hold close – and which closer – and we can weigh them against one another. We may come to question some ideas, and with the clarity induced by the sharp pain of holding those conflicting thoughts together for a time– we choose what we really want. The challenge is presented, and we have the opportunity to show courage and accept change.

Our feelings are guides to our minds. They cry out – they want to help us to understand the world better. Pain is just one aspect, one we struggle to integrate. When we harness its potential, we are able to live without fear – because every problem is a problem we work to solve. The map updates, the picture becomes clearer, the web becomes more complete, and our actions reflect this: we know better what is true, what is right, and what the way forward is for us all. Our separate webs become joined. Accept reality, join humanity, and know that there is infinitely more to experience.

If you’ve been inspired to enlarge your mental map, find out why an open relationship might be just the thing you were looking for, or delve into the wonderful world of personality typing systems

cropped-jamieBy Jamie Culkin

Jamie is currently working toward a master’s degree in experimental physics in Leiden, the Netherlands, and is contemplating both a creative and academic life. The things that drive him are: the world around us, real human connection and discussion, creation, and parkour.

Images: Unsplash | Wikimedia Commons



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