I hate pain. For the past six months, I’ve been suffering with chronic shoulder pain. I’ve also been deep into the painful process of researching and writing a new book, which explores the belief process and highlights those professions intent on getting us to believe—in various products, causes and ideas.
And as often happens when one's mind is viewing the world through a particular lens, I’ve serendipitously discovered the purpose of both my pain, and of pain in general. And what do you know? It appears to me to have a lot to do with belief.
Beliefs are really no more than working assumptions, and pain is a signal that one or more of those assumptions need to be reexamined.
Prior to my shoulder speaking out against it, I had been doing the same workout over and over and over again. Whether I consciously considered it or not, I obviously believed in it. Pain forced me to reevaluate that belief.
Even though I had long since stopped making any noticeable physical gains, I had convinced myself that my exercise regimen was the right one for me given my circumstances. It was a comfortable routine, one that I was skilled at accomplishing and in a predefined amount of time.
I also had presumptive, physical evidence that substantiated my belief, and so my mind kept highlighting it to convince me to stay the course.
However, after being forced to change and after researching my many options, I eventually discovered and implemented a far better approach. Such is the power of pain.
When Steven Spielberg was working on his blockbuster summer movie Jaws, he experienced filmmaking pain in the form of a finicky mechanical shark.
Recurring problems forced Spielberg to reevaluate his belief about how best to bring the shark to life on film and, as luck would have it, he turned away from a slick visual style to a highly suggestive approach à la an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
Pain is also a suggestion. But unlike the enduring, vivid image of a man-eating shark, we’re skilled at tuning out pain.
If our bodies or minds cause us pain, we numb them with drugs and diversion. If information causes us pain, we ignore the source. If people cause us pain, we avoid them as best we can.
And that’s why intense pain is the best kind of pain. Intense pain compels us to comply. Intense pain forces us to question our beliefs and better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Some say that the purpose of pain is to remind us that we are alive. I don’t think so. I’d rather be reminded with love, beauty and joy.
The real purpose of pain is to get us to reevaluate our beliefs, to warn us that although we are living, our decisions may not be giving us our best possible lives.
Don't ignore pain. Pain is an internal friend that helps us question the wisdom of our ways.
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