It’s hard to think of pain as having value, but it does.
Pain tells you something is wrong. On a very simple and physical level, pain can keep you from injuring yourself worse than you are. You sprain your ankle, it hurts, so you are careful with it. It gets better instead of getting worse. Say you hurt yourself and take pain killers to mask the pain. The ankle feels fine, so you go running on it, and injure it really bad. As some point, no matter how many pain killers you take, it’s injured badly enough that function is impaired. A person has to admit they are hurt and deal with the underlying problem.
Our society is very big on masking pain. The TV is full of ads for drugs to make you feel better. Now there are lots of people dealing with chronic pain and I don’t make light of their suffering. The pain goes on for so long it’s debilitating. There are many conditions that don’t get better and all one can hope to do is lessen suffering. Pain management is all you can do at that point, but lessening suffering has value.
Physical pain is a warning that something is wrong. Emotional and spiritual pain also warn a person that something isn’t right. If you are taking medications to deal with the depression of your life, maybe your life should change. There may be a message you are avoiding.
Imagine someone is in a life they hate. Their job sucks. They don’t like where they live. Their relationships don’t satisfy their needs. One solution is to reassess their life and make some drastic changes. It might be painful for a while. Leaving the spouse, abandoning the house in the suburbs and giving up the 9 to 5 job is hard and a lot of work. A person could choose a different path. They could push for marriage therapy with the spouse. They could move, maybe doing a jingle mail deal with the bank if they have to. Maybe they man up and stick with the bad job, but all the while working towards a different work arrangement. Their discomfort with their life is the motivation to make changes.
Of course, one way to deal with the pain of life is to take Prozac or its cousins and make all the hurt go away. Their life still sucks, but now they are numb enough to shuffle through it. Not all of us take happy pills. Maybe we drink too much, or eat too much, or chase too much loveless sex. These are ways of self medicating and dulling the pain.
Pain is a teacher. Are we listening to its lessons?