Pain is useful

There are two types of pain: –


Everyone has experienced some sort of physical pain, which lies somewhere between being on fire, giving birth, getting hit in the balls to bee stings, needle pricks or stubbing your little toe on the edge of a table – a pain that travels directly to your brain.  Physical pain is good because it alerts us that something is wrong and needs correcting. I hear a jelly fish sting is worse than giving birth and being on fire…. at the same time!

Accidents happen


This is much more complex because feeling it does not always pinpoint the exact spot with pain. Losing a child – the worst (they haven’t even invented a name for a parent who loses a child – it’s not the natural order of things), a parent, a spouse, a sibling etc brings an immense surge of emotional pain which, for most people, can carry on for years: some people die before they get any sort of relief from this kind of pain. 

There’s also another kind of emotional pain when someone is cheated on, or dumped – most people feel the pain for a while until they meet someone else, and with time that pain ceases and can disappear completely if they are happy in the new relationship.  Other emotional pain could come from losing money, business deals etc – some of these pains can ease when revenge is exerted (not the best way forward), or success is achieved in other ventures.

There is, however, a third kind of pain.  The pain you feel because of someone’s else stupidity, ignorance or utter disregard for common sense.  Take a look at this example:

A few years ago, Libbie* left her husband and rented a one bedroom flat.  She had a two-year-old daughter.  Within months of living in the flat, her savings dwindled because more money was going out than was coming in.  You see when she lived with her husband he provided while she stayed at home and looked after their child.  But his craziness and control freakiness went over and beyond, and she decided to leave.  She confided in a friend about money worries and wanted advice on how to get more from him.  Her friend advised her to apply for council housing first, then deal with hubby later.  She went to the council offices to start the process.  There she met a nice Nigerian man named Bayu*.  He interviewed her.

“I can’t afford to pay private rent, so I need a council house because there rent is cheaper.” She told him.

“Where are you living now?”

“In a one-bed flat, privately renting.  My savings are gone and I ……”

“Wait,…” Bayu interrupted.  “Who is paying for this flat?”

“I am….but….”

Long story short, Bayu wept….. well in his mind.  The depth of Libbie’s ignorance or stupidity was too much to bear.  How did she not know she was entitled to housing benefits? It was beyond comprehension.  ‘Had she been living under a rock?’ he wondered.

“Woman…..” he clicked his tongue, and with a heavy Yoruba accent that came out of nowhere, proceeded to explain to her, like you would a naughty child, about the benefits system and how she should apply for that first, then deal with housing later.  By the time he was done explaining, he was literally out of breath.  Despite the stabbing pain he felt, he promised to help her through both processes.

This kind of pain can teach people compassion – Bayu could not cold-shoulder Libbie’s ignorance.  As much as it hurt, he knew he would score points with JC if he helped despite her ignorance or stupidity – whichever was worse.  This is best achieved if people acknowledge that sometimes people are just uninformed and not ignorant.  Sometimes people simply don’t understand or know where to look for help and are not stupid.  Compassion can teach us that what is obvious to one person might not be so obvious to another therefore it is good to be kind.   

There’s still another kind of pain – like the one a Kenyan would feel when they read this article. Or when you vote for Hilary Clinton and Trump wins.

I don’t know….

As a matter of fact, pain is useful because as much as some people may succumb to its aftermaths – depression, suicide, homicide, bad moods – majority of people grow and develop into better or stronger people because of the pain they endured.

Pain is a teacher – it’s what people have to go through to build a thicker skin.  Even when you suffer physical pain, somehow your system knows how to avoid it in future or how to deal with it quickly – I’m not sure this applies to childbirth otherwise there’d be 5 people on earth. But then again… there’s epidural.

Having said that, it is only natural when one suffers any sort of pain to chew it over, to question and go over every little detail of how the pain came to be, what circumstances led to it (yes…. including that stupid table you bumped into), and crucially what one’s state of mind was.  This analysing can lead to other emotions – fear and guilt.  Depending on the pain endured and the consequences suffered, a person can replay the pain over and over in their mind as they plot revenge, or invent a better detecting system, or develop a sturdier coping mechanism.

As much as this would be traumatising, it is how humans have adapted to develop systems to cope with pain and trauma over years.  Pain makes us better people.  The pain of losing a loved one makes you appreciate the ones you are left with.  The pain of infidelity can make a philandering wannabe a faithful partner.  The pain of witnessing stupidity and ignorance make a person want to make a difference in the world by sharing their knowledge and learning from others. The pain of watching a country crumble can create better leaders. The pain of stubbing your little toe is infuriatingly painful…. well.

Most noticeable philosophers of today (Louise Hay, Maya Angelou, Lisa Nichols, Oprah etc) teach from personal experiences of learning from painful experiences and trauma.  Pain is useful.

*fictional names

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