Laughing in the Face of Pain


We’ve all heard about people who “laugh in the face of pain”. They can undergo any trauma or torment without flinching. They withstand extreme hardship with a smile. They don’t complain. Never complain. Ever.

These people are admired. They are either seen as superheroes or saints.

The superheroes are physically tough, tougher than ordinary people. They can take anything. They simply don’t seem to feel pain. Stereotypically, they are male. They laugh with big, booming laughs, take a licking and keep on ticking.

The saints feel pain, but they don’t complain about it. They just lie there and take it. Saints often have fatal diseases, or have a lot of babies. Hence, they are often female. Not a word of complaint leaves their (often) pale lips. They suffer, and their suffering elevates them to beautiful, beatific sainthood.

Sometimes women are the tough ones. Tough old birds, most often. And men can suffer in silence as well. In fact, that expectation of suffering in silence can lead to complications, because these superheroic, flinchless wonders rarely seek treatment until it’s too late.

We don’t seem to question that these people exist. As a society, we seem to accept that there are some people who are simply immune to pain.

So why can’t this society accept that the opposite exists at the same time? If there are those who feel no pain, then there must be those who feel more than their fair share of pain.

If people are willing to accept people who feel less pain, why can’t they accept that some people are more susceptible to pain?

It makes sense that pain sensitivity exists along a continuum. So why are people unwilling to accept that while most people exist somewhere in the middle, there are indeed people who fall at both ends of that spectrum?

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Until I blew my back out, I was very deficient in compassion. Then I realized every person in the world was born with a back, and so had the possibility of experiencing the pain I was experiencing. After I learned to get the pain to a point I could function, I found myself a lot more ready to cut folks some slack – the pain belongs to everyone, but some of us are less apt to show it. People who really do feel a lot of pain have serious medical conditions and crappy medical care, and possibly no money to go with it. And you literally don’t know who those people are, except they are more likely to be terse and grumpy.

    • I’m sorry you had to learn the lesson in such a difficult way. Back pain sucks.

      But I disagree about the serious medical conditions and crappy medical care… actually, I suppose that depends on your definition of “serious”.

      There are medical conditions that ARE pain. That’s what they’re about. I guess that’s enough to call them serious, but they don’t have to be life threatening or dangerous in other ways. People have those conditions, and the pain is intense in response to stimuli that would cause the next person to barely blink.

      Cutting slack is entirely necessary, because there is no way to know what kind of pain another person is in, which is why I call pain tricksy. Tricksy and elusive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: