We have all felt pain at some point in our lives, whether it be physical or emotional or psychological.
Last night, we had to go to A & E with a family member as she had such bad pains in her chest, she thought it was how a heart attack felt (she is 19 years old) – she is fine by the way; nothing found, heart is healthy; unexplained.
She was asked by various medical practitioners throughout the evening, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most painful, where would you say your pain is?” She said 7 – which surprised me.
Why did it surprise me?
It got me thinking about how we measure pain, who is to say my pain is worse than yours? On a scale of 1 to 10, to me 7 is really high.
The word pain, comes from 11th century French peine “difficulty, woe, suffering, punishment, which in turn came from Latin poena “punishment, penalty, retribution. The earliest sense in English survives in phrase on pain of death.
We can also be a pain to another person by being annoying and/or irritating. Take pains to do something means taking great care. Plato and Aristotle, considered pain to not be a sensory experience, but an emotional one. So if the heart experienced pain, it was from an external source – anyone who has had their heart ‘broken’ in love might relate with this idea.
I have never broken a bone (touch wood -we’ll do superstitions another time!), but I have dislocated a toe – kicking someone – no, I am not a hooligan, I was training in Tae Kwon Do and didn’t pull my toes back! I have cut myself on numerous occasions, I have stubbed my toe many times, I have stabbed myself with a chisel – I studied sculpture at Art college – I have torn ligaments, damaged both Achilles tendons, twisted a joint, fallen down stairs,suffer from migraines, have osteoarthritis and have given birth -once – once is enough!!
So, you see I am no stranger to pain – physical pain. I have been dumped by a boyfriend and had depression in late teen to early twenties, but what’s the worst pain I have ever felt? Besides giving birth, (definitely a 10!) it was a pain that Aristotle would say came from outside my body:
On a family and friends holiday in Cornwall 15 years ago, on a beach. Me and my friend ‘K’ and our girls; one each, were building a sandcastle. K’s daughter was 5 years old, mine 3. In the blink of an eye, my daughter was suddenly not there. We called and searched the immediate vicinity – a crowded beach filled with bathers, children, pod-tents, beach toys, surfers, rock-pools, caves, you get the picture. My husband and male friend ‘P’ had gone for a walk along the beach to investigate caves. K’s daughter stayed at ‘base camp’, keeping a lookout, I ran along the shoreline, K searched the rock-pools! The ensuing panic was horrendous, my chest was tight, I was crying in gulps and almost choking – I understood the phrase ‘heart in her mouth’ and grasped my chest in pain, it felt like my heart was literally in my throat and I was going to die from emotional pain. I ran along the beach yelling at the top of my lungs for my husband and P; they joined the hunt. This went on for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably closer to twenty minutes.
Eventually we found her, less than fifteen feet from the sandcastle, crouched behind someone’s pod-tent digging away, oblivious to the activity and the search and our calls. You can imagine the relief; my body shook with it.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain was I in? Well, it cannot really be compared to the pain I experienced giving birth to same child, but I would still say a 10 – maybe 11 – because I’m dramatic. I cry when I see starving, dying or abused children on TV, I actually feel a pain in my chest – btw, it gets worse when you become a mother!!
People feel pains at different levels, we have thresholds, and some have a higher threshold than others – it does not mean that their pain is not real, or painful. Your pain is yours, and no-one can tell how much it hurts. Is a broken leg more or less painful than a broken heart? Who knows, but one things certain, you know you’re alive when you feel it!