Why Pain, Why Pleasure?
Pain is an amazing adaption and necessary for life to continue its existence. Pain evolved, beginning with the simplest nervous systems, until it helped form what we would like to consider the most complex our own. With primitive organisms’ pain allows the creature to move away from danger, to recoil from a threat and to react to situations that could endanger it. With more complex animals like primates we react to pain to avoid damage to our bodies but pain is not in our bodies, it is in our minds. Our minds are connected to our bodies through a complex nervous system that branches out from our brain stem into our bodies like the root system of a tree. It links our minds to internal organs and then on to our skin, the largest of our organs. We can detect slight pressure and react violently to the pain of injury. Cold, heat, sharp objects all cause us discomfort and like the simplest of creatures we move away from the threat. Pain is a great motivator, in that very few of us can endure it without reacting to it. Our brains can perceive what could cause us pain and sometimes just the threat of it can bring about the exact duplication of it within our minds. An experienced torturer uses the threat of pain with the same effectiveness as pain itself once his subject has been conditioned. Diseases that damage our nerves that sense pain are very dangerous such as Leprosy. We damage ourselves with cuts and burns that we cannot feel as they occur and then infection sets in and we cannot feel that either. So the ability to feel pain is crucial for our survival.
Pleasure is just as an important motivator and key to our survival. We mover away from pain and towards pleasure. We tend to think about it more than a planarian worm but results are the same, avoid pain, seek pleasure. The pain we avoid and the pleasure we seek, although it manifests itself within our body is actually experienced within our brain. Phantom limb pain is an example of this as even when a limb is amputated we can still feel pain in it. Those products that tell us to rub it on the spot that is causing us pain do not stop the pain at that spot but are absorbed into our blood stream and end up deadening pain receptors in our brains.
Psychosomatic pain although experiences in an area of our body is created by our mind to distract ourselves from the conflict between our unconscious and our conscious minds.
Pleasure is linked to our Dopamine reward system within our brains but we feel it in our bodies. Our brains reward our bodies for doing what is in our long term interest to do. Sex is the clearest example. If orgasms were painful there would be a population crisis instead of the billions on earth today. Obviously a very efficient system.
Our limbic system links our minds and thinking to our bodies. Negative thoughts create negative feelings within a few seconds, while positive thoughts take up to fifteen seconds to create a positive feeling within our bodies. That is because negative conditioning is more efficient that positive conditioning. This is connected again to our surviving long enough to propagate our genes. If we don’t react to the lion immediately our genes will not make it into the next generation. Our mother’s love has more time to find it way into our hearts.
So like the planarian worm seek out pleasure and avoid pain but use your minds to understand the context in which this happens. Sometimes pain is a great motivator for change. Most young people leave home in a form of pain (could be called rage) as it takes this to make them move out and on to their own. The pain that an addiction can cause is sometimes enough to motivate a person to discover within themselves what is going on, address the issue and change by moving into a state of recovery. Pleasure is more than just a physical experience and when we begin to understand the pleasure our minds are capable of we can use this as a motivation to seek more. Music, philosophy, art, relationships and philanthropy are just some of the more pleasurable motivations that we can experience with our minds and since our minds are linked to our bodies the pleasure can become total bliss.
The more you understand yourself, how you evolved and what makes up both your body and mind the more you can use this knowledge to create a life that is worth living. Use the pain and pleasure of life to gain and understanding of what is possible for a human rather than letting it limit you to just being an animal.