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Monday, January 5, 2009

The Pain is Only what you Make It - Mind over Matter

During a serious test of physical endurance, a wise man once told me:

"The Pain is Only what you Make It"
I used that advice to my advantage that day and achieved a great victory that would reward me for the rest of my life.

Physical pain is an interesting phenomenon described by the International Association for the Study of Pain as:
"an unpleasant sensory and emotional associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage"
Another widely used definition of pain from Margo McCaffery is as follows:
"Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does"
The thing I've learned about pain and the perception of it, is that the body, nervous system and brain overcompensate quite a bit with its warnings. In the first definition I've italicized 'potential' tissue damage. Even if the body is in no immediate danger of physical harm it still gives indications of pain to the brain as a warning. It's time we stop this tyrannical behavior of our own bodies and do our due diligence to learn exactly what they can handle and what they can't. The older we grow and the more we experience the more pain we will naturally encounter and therefore, the more familiar we become with how our body reacts to different stimuli.

Self-observation and getting to know your limits and what you are capable of, I am convinced is of great importance to leading a happy healthy life. (See post: "Always Challenge Yourself") If you know the exact moment when this false alarm called "pain" will turn into actual physical harm, you should convince yourself that it is okay to dance on this line. For example, often times when lifting heavy awkward objects it can be uncomfortable for many people and the object may cause pain in your hands and fingers. But if you are aware that this amount of pain is safe and will cause no physical harm you can easily endure it and rest assured that you will be able to shake your hands out when you are done this task and there will be no harm done. Do you see how this realization can increase your physical strength? You are now permitting yourself to lift 15 extra pounds than your body and pain threshold would otherwise allow.

Furthermore, if you know the extent of physical harm that will be done by any given action, it may be acceptable to endure it depending on the task at hand. For example, you can probably commit to catching or breaking the fall of a falling dish if it means you may get some abrasions on your knuckles from the counter top, or a bruise from the falling dish. But you may not commit to that if it is not your dish, or if it is unimportant to you.

The more you learn about yourself and your body the more control you will have over what you do with it, and you are able to take the control away from your tyrannical bodily instincts.
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