Dismissing Others’ Pain

DSCN0469.JPGPain – there’s all different kinds of it. Emotional, mental, physical. Everyone suffers from some kind of pain at some point in their lives. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being imperfect.

So why is my pain any different from yours and vice versa? Or should I say better or worse? Just like everyone suffers, everyone’s threshold for pain is different. A headache I may dismiss as a minor annoyance would put someone else in bed for the day. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. We’ve all been conditioned to withstand a certain amount of pain.

But what happens when we encounter someone who suffers from a type of pain we’ve never had? Or a person who has a lower threshold for pain?

I know the what the answer is for me. It’s not nice, at least it didn’t used to be. Whenever someone would call off for a headache or backache or some other kind of ache where I worked I would become angry, irrationally so. And I’m not talking about the people who were playing hooky. That’s a different matter.

But no, these people were genuinely in pain for one reason or another and I would spend days fuming and ranting in my mind. And of course all that would spill out as I gossiped behind that person’s back to my other coworkers. Because I knew they didn’t really feel that bad. If they had tried, they could have made it to work. It was all in their head anyway.

I will admit I am a little disgusted with how I used to be. There is such arrogance there. And a lack of compassion and sympathy. Even if I was right about someone’s pain, what right did I have to judge them? I didn’t know what it was like for them. I didn’t know how their lives led up to that moment or why they were in that pain. Only they could know.

My only excuse is that I was raised by people who never got sick or allowed me to be sick or in pain. When I did get sick or was in pain (as any normal child does) I was made to feel as though I was letting them down and inconveniencing them so I had better recover quickly. I’m hoping they didn’t do it on purpose, but I probably will never know for sure.

But then I began suffering from all kinds of pain, which wasn’t special just the normal course of a human life when you don’t take care of yourself. And it scared me, because it didn’t matter whether I allowed it to happen or not I was feeling it. It was like someone hijacked my body, my mind, my emotions and I had no choice but to feel the pain.

And I still couldn’t understand how people could let pain stop them. I still dismissed their pain as a weakness – something a stronger person wouldn’t them bother them, I was sure. Someone like me.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I started feeling the amount of pain necessary to start wondering how other people dealt with it everyday. There has to be a lot of pain out there since ‘pain management’ has become such a booming business, right?

But that’s another post…

Everyday people wake up in some sort of pain, knowing that it will never go away and they may never understand what’s causing that pain. Just the thought of that kind of torture makes me nauseous. It also makes me wonder how much of the pain we feel is self-inflicted by the choices we make – what we eat, how much exercise we get, how much alcohol we consume, what we smoke… But again, another post.

What it comes down to is that it doesn’t matter why people feel pain, it’s not anyone else’s job to judge that person or dismiss their pain as irrelevant. No matter the reason or even the severity, pain is going to affect how you live. It will cloud your judgment and make you say and do some weird, crazy shit.

So when I have a pain-free day or a few strung together, I’m thankful. But I also remember my pain so that when I encounter someone who’s feeling their own pain I can be empathetic. I can understand that even if I’ve never felt their kind of pain they are doing the best they can in that situation. I can offer them a place to go where they don’t have to make excuses or be afraid to admit what’s going on.

Who’s with me?


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