Pain Examined


It is often said that pain carries no memory—that we may remember that we were hurt but  not remember the sensation of pain itself. That assertion though may not be true since there are masochistic people  who seek  pain. If there is no memory in the pain itself what are they getting from putting themselves in pain receiving situations. Masochists would explain it as an affirmation their ability to tolerate higher levels  and more intense pain than others, granting them self satisfaction, status among peers even adulation from onlookers. They discount and disregard the negative feelings expressed to them: judging those people to “Not understand” or to be “Jealous” of their capacity.  That still does not explain what pain gives them that, since that is the chosen stimulus, other activities apparently do not. The sensation would seem to be of value, which then implies that such sensation is memorable.


In times long passed children were caned, it was seen as part of learning, was accepted as the price they had to pay for misdemeanours. Theoretically corporeal punishment was the last resort when guidance, counselling and other talking sanctions had failed. It is true that poorly trained and less charismatic teachers circumvented that process in favour of what they regarded to be a quick fix. Whether it really had any part in behaviour modification is doubted now but the point is what  a young person got  from being caned was not what the teacher intended.  They gained status, which is the opposite of the teachers intention. Caning was meant to deter, to show that the canee was a person who was of a lower level of being , more like an animal which  then was taken to imply that they needed to be treated like a “lower” life form, that they were incapable of reasoning and being persuaded into acceptable ways of behaving being seen more as a lion to be tamed.  However, if a boy,  for example, was caned he would normally resist the urge to cry, he wanted to tough it out, to not be beaten into submission--- psychologically the caning made the individual more firmly resolved in whatever train of behaviour for which they were being punished. Showing the evidence of the caning to others helped the individual show how hard they were, how they could take it, and that the punishment just made them harder, in this case “more manly”. The reactions of the onlookers confirmed them in their belief that they were special and deserving of respect. That respect was coming from those they sought to impress so it did not matter that the authority figures treated them badly because that confirmed feelings of dislike that they had for authority in general--- which would have been instigated much earlier in life by similar actions by parents, guardians or other authority figures. It is interesting how differently we think and approach issues now making that previous thought stream, though consistent, unacceptable in present thinking.


There are parallels in military training--- pushing recruits to the limit of their endurance then pushing them beyond that to prove to them that they could do more than they thought they could. In that scenario it is aimed to build confidence, resilience as well as physical endurance.

Recruits in training bond, because they share experience, grow together , progress and develop.

The individual that was caned had the same sequence of experiences but because it was done in isolation created, accidentally, hero for naïve others to aspire to emulate.

Prisoners  who live in deprived communities can become heroes to other deprived people; they are seen as people who can handle the rigours of prison, heroes who will not be beaten by the established system of rules that are meant to govern the actions of any community.

There is a pattern here that is replicated at different levels, in different ways but always has the same result--- it makes things worse. It creates resentment, fear,  creates the individual as a victim in their own eyes and a hero in the eyes of those who were meant to be deterred by that individuals punishment.

Take this to the next level—warfare—two sides fight, one wins one loses but that is never the end of the story. The beaten feels like a victim and is seen as the under-dog. The winner is seen as powerful but bullying or oppressive.


The lessons we draw from these scenes is that the pain whether physical and corporeal or emotional and communal is translated into emotions, beliefs, expectations, desires. Those mind based reactions to a body based sensation are the real expression of pain.  The subconscious mind is complicated and sees things differently than the conscious mind. It concludes that experiencing or showing the experience of pain can elicit concern, care, attention, interest from others. It can go further and create, in an individual, feelings of pain as a way of getting the attention that the individual feels they are not receiving. This, all at a subconscious level, cannot be understood by the conscious mind which cannot differentiate between physiological pain and psychological pain, each appearing identical.

Now we get to the relevance of this to neurological pain--- the sort of pain that for the sufferer is real and tangible but for which the  health professional can find no reason.

Pain comes in many forms sharp stabbing through to dull aching. It may be specific or generalised. It may occur at certain times or it may be constant. The intensity may vary or may stay static.

In any attempt to relieve neurological pain a detailed exploration of the nature of the condition is needed.


In the simplest of term a sharp stabbing pain may be a metaphorical prod to action --- to deal with some unresolved issue. While a dull ache may be a long term concern, frustration, or anxiety. This is in the simplest of terms and the  frequency and intensity will give further clues to the instigating incident or event.

If the pain is long standing it may have evolved, typically from a sharp stabbing into a nagging ache as the subconscious becomes frustrated at the lack of resolution and turns to nagging as a way of getting action. This may sound simplistic but in fact issues need not be complicated, the mere fact that something is ignored, pushed away is often enough to make it manifest as a substantial problem. Similarly to acknowledge the initial incident, to realise that something needs to be resolved starts the process by which relief may be achieved.

Intense pain may indicate that they issue is of great significance to you—that may be the case but that does not mean that the issue would be seen by others as worthy of creating the level of discomfort that the sufferer experiences. All these things are subjective. The value each of us places on any incident, event, feeling is  our interpretation; based on our previous experience, knowledge and understanding. If you have an unresolved pain that has been fully investigated by your doctor hypnotherapy might be a way of managing or alleviating the condition.


© Martin Williams 2013/15/16