Hurts so Good


Excerpt from “The Sweet Spot” the pleasures of suffering and the search for meaning

“To see the puzzle in a different way, think about the function of these psychological states.

Jeremy Bentham said that “nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, Pain and pleasure” and he saw them as inherently opposing forces, pushing us in different ways: approach and avoidance, carrot and stick.

But how can you approach and avoid at the same time.

We’ll talk about Freud in a little while, but I”ll just note here that whatever one might say about his views, he did appreciate the weirdness of the phenomena.

He writes that since the primary aim of a person “ is the avoidance of unpleasure and the obtaining of pleasure; it follows that seeking out pain is “incomprehensible.”

Perhaps the way out of this puzzle is to conclude that pain is never pleasurable.

We seek out pain, sure, but maybe we do so only because this provides every benefits.

This sort of trade-offs is the stuff of life.

You run outside on a chilly day, shivering and uncomfortable, to retrieve an important package that has been left up the walk.

Or undergo a painful operation to fix a long-standing medical condition. Or sit, board and unhappy, in a government office to renew your drivers license.

Or even withstand torture so as not to reveal the identities of your comrades.

There are many reasons to choose pain and suffering that don’t deny awfulness.

And the next chapter, in benign masochism, includes a lot about how we choose Pain to obtain pleasure just a few seconds afterwards.

Such explanations don’t deny the badness of pain.”



6 responses to this post.

  1. I can relate to “exquisite” pain. I have large patches of a very itchy skin rash on my shins (I’ve seen a doctor and have ointment that is rarely used) and the intense pain when scratching doesn’t make me quit. It begs for more. It’s funny how with emotional upset I’m drawn to scratch even when there is no itch happening. The resulting damage creates pain of a different sort and makes sleeping difficult. Good pain, bad pain. It’s sad but understandable why in this case good pain leads to bad pain.

  2. I have chronic pain. In the chronic pain group of 15 everyone but me thought pain was evil,

    They thought pain was emotionally negative, nasty,

    Pain is neutral

    That’s the truth

    I never added extra physical pain

    Emotional trauma pain is my Achilles heal

  3. This book has been informative so far

    Look at those who cut, cause pain to relieve their other pain

    Hard to understand

  4. It is hard to understand, but then I’ve never been where they are to experience the motivation behind cutting.

  5. Me either

    But I read about it

  6. When we were in first aid we were taught to always look for other injuries because the most painful one could mask the pain of the others and tragically they could be missed. Maybe that is one principle behind cutting. For a short time it masks the pain they are living with.
    I’m sure it is much more complicated than that though.

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