What I learnt about physical and emotional pain

The owl looked like this fellow from where I was as it flew silently away

I had an amazing time on a camping trip during the past few days; I even got to see an owl (I think it was a barn owl) which got me really excited because I had never seen nor ever expected to see an owl in the wild.  There were some pretty countryside buildings and fascinating plants and though it was not the best one I had been to, I had fun.

Of course, a camping trip also means the heavy rucksack, which in my case was about a quarter of my own weight, and the long distance walking (about 20km a day). I regretted not doing any form of exercise during the summer holidays because the muscles connecting my upper body to my legs are still very sore and it is all I can do to hobble around the house.

On the second day of the hike, I found myself thinking about pain. I had a huge blister on the pinkie-toe which tore open and to put it simply to spare any squeamish readers, was raw and quite painful. However, when I was walking, the pain on the blister and my muscles did not bother me so much – it was the most painful when I started walking.

I think this change in the level of physical pain felt during the journey is rather like the change in emotional pain that we feel in our lives. There are occasions when we are hurt by something and the pain sears us on that very first moment. We try to nurse the pain, so it feels a little bit better, but when we try to get into the rhythm of every day life, the sore spot becomes sensitive and it is difficult to be the way we were before.

When we do actually get going though, the pain is still there but we start to get distracted by other things, so that our minds are preoccupied with tasks that require our attention and we become less absorbed in the pain. We ease into a good pace and appreciate the other things in life.

Then we take a break. We take a moment and our mind wanders back to the source of the pain and we are reminded of the agony. We don’t want to get back up and start walking again because we know that it will hurt so much and the little jolts on the way will open fresh wounds. Nevertheless, we must press on and so we do until we reach the destination or a new beginning and we carry on with life with the scars of the struggles past.

In these ways, I think physical pain and emotional pain are very similar. I guess that’s why there’s no word to distinguish between physical and emotional pain.

My pains from this camping trip remain and I cannot lift my left leg properly, so it is near impossible to climb the stairs without either hauling myself up with the help of the banister or pulling my leg up with my hands. Yet the pain is a source of motivation for me to be a little more active so that if there is another camping trip, I will be tougher and stronger. If the blister leaves a scar, it will always be associated with the pleasure as well as the pains of the hike.




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