The Suffering of Not Feeling Pain

Sometimes my heart contracts and closes. I picture a hollow metal sphere divided into segments. Sometimes it opens like the petals of a flower.

My being is designed to find the things that give it nourishment, pleasure, wellbeing. Having located them – grasp for more of them. Meanwhile ignoring or rejecting sources of pain.

Opening myself up to be vulnerable to the pain of rejection or failure or shame actually is an experience that brings me great nourishment for the soul. To risk and be vulnerable is truly exhilarating. To connect with someone completely and be present for them is like peeling off my skin and letting the wind hurt the raw sensitivity underneath. The risk of such pain or rather the risk of really really feeling any pain is high. The thing that changes is my ability to feel. Then I realise that so much of the time I have chosen to not feel.

When I close down it can happen like a gradual grinding of rock slowly eroding definition of the world to a Henry Moore esque view of life. Rounded pebbles where there were sharp defined edges, missing details and the uniqueness that every thing and moment possesses. Or, my heart can snap shut, fast and reactive, closed against the possibility of hurt, reacting to anger or threat or rejection.

But the very act of closing withers my soul. The mistaken act of keeping out threat hurts. Each tiny closing of my heart twists an exquisite pain into my psyche, a snapping shut hurts so much that I just go numb. Too much pain to bear too fast.

I repeat the closing despite the hurt. My psychological reflexes shut my heart fast to keep out the pain.

Sensations keep me alive, but I shut them out. Closing down is like poison but I keep drinking it. When something makes me shut down I think I am frightened of pain. But actually I am frightened of being alive.

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When pain makes me feel better

So when I’m in physical pain I tend to feel psychologically better. I’ve never really clarified this in my head until I read Joy Curtis’ post on the subject. It made so much sense.

I need to point out that the source of physical pain I’m talking about here is not chronic or the result of a terminal or life threatening illness.

I can be on the lowest of lows I mean really low, dangerously low – ward admittance low. A strange part of my lows is that I look fine – it is now in my medical notes that I’m high functioning but can be a danger to myself and don’t present in a way that psychiatric staff expect (see my other blog for anecdote about that). I’ve had support teams in my living room saying ‘well you look fine’.
Yes don’t I.

Then pain  –  illness. I take to my bed. I feel awful…… and start to realise that I have found some real compassion for myself, because my pain is ‘real’. In this moment I know I’m not well, I’m in pain, I need to look after myself.

When it was psychological I believed none of that and now when I own my physical pain I start to own the psychological too. And I feel better.
A lot better.
Tons better.
I mean I start actually feeling happy.
Very happy.

A comment from TV series: House – half remembered, but you get the gist.

Cessation of extreme pain can cause euphoria

Is that what is happening ? Maybe. Can phenomena from physiological pain be applied to psychological ?

Dunno but it’s kind of interesting.
Thanks Joy 

A not so good variant of that experience is self harm.
I have been there. There is definitely an element of this going on with my self harm. Owning and seeing my own pain, but it is so mixed in with guilt / shame and knowing that the very nature of the activity is not looking after myself.

I’ve no cures for psychological pain here – I do not advocate self harm – I do not advocate being in pain.
But I feel a bit clearer on a few things.