The Daily Stoic for September 18th, “Dealing With Pain”.
“Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.64
Not being American, I find it hard to relate to stoic meditations that talk about Churchill, Washington or other American presidents or important figures of the US history. I always found it funny how they overemphasize their values, brave character, honor, or mercifulness.
Sounds heretic? Perhaps that’s because, as a European, I have so many figures to choose from, so many wars, kings, plagues, heroes, villains, priests, visionaries, lunatics, emperors, geniuses and prophets… It gets to a point when you realize all of them are idealized one way or the other. None of them were as good or evil as history depicts them. So I will not comment on how Churchill endured pain or my opinions about that. I will speak about my own experiences.
Pain Is Necessary
In our modern society, pain is demonized. We need to be always good, bright and perfect, always ready, always productive, always happy. We have become the Instagram society.
But pain is necessary. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s a way of liberation, of relief, of mourning. We need pain to let go of our beloved ones when they die. We need pain when we are ill or injured to appreciate when we feel good. We need pain to realize how bad our relationship was, or how much we loved someone.
The problem is when we stick to our pain as a solution to our problems, to feel sorry for ourselves, or to demand the attention of others.
Dealing With Pain
So, how do you cope with pain?
Pain takes many forms. There’s physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain…
“And in most cases, you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending”
I’m not so sure about that. Physical pain due to an injury or an illness can be permanent. Emotional pain too, although I tend to think that, for this kind of pain, it’s usually in our hands to stop it and move on.
Whatever the type, there’s an initial phase in which pain consumes you. You are feeling this very strong feeling. You are not OK, and pain is the form that your body found to let you know how it feels.
As I mentioned, this stage is not only unavoidable, but necessary. You should not stop pain. I think you need to embrace it. Use it.
But then, when you have used it, when you know that you are not OK, and are ready to be, you need to get rid of it. When your body, your mind, your heart has already warned you that there’s something wrong going on, it’s time to work on it. In this process, you will get rid of the pain eventually. Pain can last forever… but only if you let it to.
In today’s Daily Stoic, “Dealing With Pain”, I talked about the concept of pain, what it means to me, and how do I cope with it. Our society demonizes pain, and I think it’s something necessary.