Don’t Turn Off the Pain… Completely

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Odd statement. I know. I mean, whenever we have the chance, we want to turn the pain off, right? I admit. I’m in that crowd, too. I prefer to be pain-free, whether that is physical pain or psychological pain. However, I got to thinking… Well, that, and the application of what I have learned in my training. But, mostly, based on experience.

Two things happened today. First, the positive. I got the most wonderful note from one of my students. Before I share that, a little secret. Don’t tell, ok? It is true that I tend to spend unpaid overtime preparing my material for my students. I do it because I love to see them succeed. Well, that is another story. But, again, that is just between you and me, ok? Now, here is the good part of my two-part story.

Enduring pain in daily life * Deborah E's Positive Persistence Blog

Part One: The Positive

Here is the note..


You were an absolute lifesaver for this [Statistics Course]! I appreciate EVERYthing you did for us. It really made a HUGE difference with me in this course. I have given you rave reviews to [the Graduate School] as well (in case you were wondering). I just had to personally thank you for helping with this challenging course. Your resources and positive attitude made me feel a lot less worried about how I would make it through. I will always be grateful for how much you have given to us.


Isn’t that sweet? It sure made my day. I think I teared up, with tears of joy. But, now for the point of my story, about pain. I know. It doesn’t make sense. But, my hope is that it will, when you see the big picture.

The rewards of enduring daily life * Deborah E's Positive Persistence Blog

Part Two: The Background

This evening, I was watching an episode of CSI: NY, called “The Real McCoy.” I know, as soon as you see “Speakeasy” in the description you will likely think it is the Jazz aspect (which really was not a component of the story). However, that is not the part of the story that struck me. If you happen to watch the episode, tune in on the sub-story about Adam and his father.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s put it this way… Have you ever watched something and connected so completely that you could almost predict the script and certainly feel the pain that the actor was portraying for the character? Well, it was one of those moments. Let’s say it connected on a deep level and probably a level that I don’t necessarily want to write about at this moment, even though I trust you with my secrets. But, we can keep it simple and just call it “pain,” ok?

A little girl finds a friend to help her through her pain. * Deborah E's Positive Persistence Blog

Pulling It All Together

What do these two parts of one day have to do with each other? Not a whole lot, on the surface, if it were not for a conversation I had with a dear friend, following the watching of the episode.

There is a part in that episode where the character talks about not “feeling anything” in relationship to his abuser (his father). He desperately wants to feel love and he cannot. He can feel pain. He can feel obligation. He is kind. He is not an abuser like his father. However, that love that he desperately wants to feel, and feels obligated to feel, simply isn’t there.

Actually, psychologically speaking, that is not unusual. When a person has been abused past a breaking point, it is not unusual for them to break the relationship as far as the love part. But, that doesn’t mean that everything is disconnected. Ok, this could go really deep and I’m trying not to bore you. It is not uncommon for an abuse victim to find healing through forgiveness and dealing with any rage, while retaining any sort of legal obligation, and yet, turning off the love. It isn’t that the victim doesn’t love. They probably feel a similar love as love for a homeless person when they drop a few bucks in the homeless person’s change can. It isn’t hatred, it is just a disconnection of whatever love relationship might have been there from birth (or what one would think should have been there from birth). It is self-protection.

I’ll tell you what. I’ll try to work on an easier way to describe that and maybe it will be another article. But, back to the topic of pain.

One can turn off that feeling of “love” and still function in society. Ok, we all have hang-ups and baggage so I’m not saying the world is perfect. I’m calling it functional.

We all have baggage. * Deborah E's Positive Persistence Blog

However, the danger point is if we figure out how to turn off the pain. See, if you start talking about sociopaths (or psychopaths), even if they don’t exist when it comes to the DSM-V (don’t worry if you don’t know what I am talking about here…it is psychology babble)… then we have a problem. Why is it a danger point if we can completely turn off the ability to feel pain? If you don’t feel pain, you are able to inflict pain without remorse. Do you really want to be that person? I know I don’t!

Personally, I’m ok if a shed a tear or two. That shows that I CAN feel pain and I am not out in the world intentionally CAUSING pain!

So, this may be an abrupt end to the story of my day, but it does come full circle. The ability to feel pain, and in my own experience, some pain that connected with that particular episode, is the same pain that motivates me to NOT want to cause pain for others. In my case, it motivates me to be more caring for my students, and that comes out in the beautiful note that I received.

Does that mean we should all look for pain or put it in some sort of shrine? Absolutely not! Don’t seek pain. Don’t self-inflict pain. And, certainly, do not cause pain!

What I am saying is that if you are one of those who have gone through such severe pain that you have figured out how to turn the love off in a relationship, I don’t blame you. I understand that you are protecting your own psyche and well-being. However, I caution you to NOT take it the next step. Do NOT turn off the pain while you are turning off the love. It would seem to me that the last thing you want to be is exactly like the person who caused you pain and it is easy to do that in an attempt to self-preserve.

Self-soothe and comfort yourself, but be aware of pain… enough so that you do not cause it for yourself and especially for others.

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