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Mette Maja Mouritsen
Mette Maja Mouritsen


The Essence of pain

Pain is uncomfortable, it burns, it sticks, it presses, it is unbearable, it is hard to be in the body, it attracts all attention.

Pain is a word and an experience with many different shades: chest pain, back pain, ear pain it may even be painful to witness.

Pain cannot be measured and often it is not visible to great frustration for those who wants prove of physical changes, like the sentence "the doctor has found", as if the pain has more legitimacy when it is physically visible. Behind all the different words for pain, there is an experience of unease, and it is all about physics and chemistry.

So what is it the doctor may find or discover behind the pain? We may find inflammatory cells, blood clots, bleeding, flushing, swelling, heat, bacteria, cancer cells. All of it is chemical and physical reactions within and in between our own cells, and we call it objective findings and label it with our own vocabulary, the diagnoses.

These findings do not tell anything about why the cells of the body react or what they respond to, or if the body is on its way to heal or destroy itself, reactions which the cells in the body are used to perform everyday. It's pure physics and chemistry, which we mostly are self-initiating.

Of course we are affected by the surroundings, like what we eat and other people's behaviour, their anger and joy may initiate our own anger and joy. Both emotions can be felt in the body in different ways, also as pain.

And when there is no physical finding, what is then triggering the pain? Perhaps the doctor's instruments are not able to measure the fine discoveries as well as our own fine senses. Although it still pains, we may be pleased that there are no physical findings, and work on the cause for the pain in another way. Common reasons for the “invisible” pain are triggered by mental images, which rise in our brain from our senses through everything we perceive with the eyes, ears, mouth, skin and hair, and especially the sixth sense. It is well known, when we are watching a touching movie, and tears suddenly starts pouring. It is pure chemistry, and lots of empathy.

When I inquire the many different forms of pain, I have experienced, that there are many difficult and beautiful emotions behind the word pain, like anxiety, anger, frustration, self-criticism, desire for freedom, mistrust, sadness, loneliness, shame and guilt, a wide ocean of ​​emotions. It is completely understandable that it hurts so much!

The beauty is that by understanding that there are no guilt in-side or out-side, it appears as pure reactions to something, we do not always understand, but which we can learn to accept and give space for, and by this the pain may dissolve. When the shame behind the pain disappears, the many faces of the pain emerge, and it is easier to relate to, and even let go of the pain.

It is not our intellect, which senses the pain, it simply makes assessments and judgements and talks about the pain, and may even confuse us and create more uneasiness, more chemistry and physics.

It is our consciousness that senses and the intellect, which interprets the sensations. The perception happens at the cellular level in different cells, not entirely the nerve cells in the nervous system, it is just one out of several communication systems, which the body uses. Perception is a momentary impression of various simultaneous in-put, which we constantly receive including new and old images. So by quieting the mind, the pain is quieting as well, and we may even let go of it completely, by letting go of the anxiety, which often grasps the pain, and simply watch the intellect, which is nourishing the fire, the painful fire.

So what can we do? We can learn to still the mind through mindfulness, meditation and body work in many different ways. It is why the doctor sometimes prescribes movement as medicine. If it is seasoned with a little awareness about the origin of the pain, it is a possible way out of the pain. We can still chose to relieve the pain with different painkillers from time to time, one-way does not exclude the other. And it's only ourselves who knows the right type and dose of painkillers by trial and error.

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