Badge of Honor

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I went to the dentist today to have some work done. It was to be a 2 hour procedure, the kind of thing most people dread. I was indifferent.I was indifferent because the dentist doesn’t bother me much. I definitely do not enjoy going to the dentist but I don’t dread it or get anxious either. It is just something I have to do sometimes to be healthy.

So I get in the chair, they numb me up, I put on my headphones and lay back for the next two hours while they do their thing. Some poking here, prodding there, “bite down on this for 5 five minutes”, “open wider”, “bite down”, “open wider”.. and so on.. 2 hours late she asked me to rinse and spit and I informed her that she still had cotton lodged up in my cheek. Suddenly she was flummoxed. Wait, you can feel that? You should still be numb..

Then after talking for a minute about what else I had been able to feel we realized they had not given me enough numbing agent at the beginning. Oops.

She commented on how I must have a high threshold for pain and I confirmed that I do and that was that.

When I was driving home I was thinking about it a bit more though and what that actually means.. People wear that truth like a badge of honor, I have a high threshold for pain, but what does that actually say about us?

Does a high threshold/tolerance for pain = I am really good at numbing. Or shutting down. Are we essentially just saying I am highly skilled at not feeling.

And why is it different for different people? Do some men have a high tolerance because of what it means to be a man in our patriarchal society? Do not show emotion. Do not cry. Do not allow yourself be vulnerable. Don’t be a pussy.

Do some of us have a high tolerance because of the other pain we have bore? Either no pain could ever be as severe as these initial painful experiences we have had or maybe it is that the initial experiences were so painful that we learned how to detach/numb in painful situations as a way of protection/self-preservation..

Either way it suddenly struck me as really odd that having a high tolerance for pain would be seen as a positive thing. Well, actually that is not true. I do think it is a positive thing, I still see it as a protective factor. I think what I mean is, yes maybe it is positive AND it is maybe kind of sad.

Good for you that you are able to take care of yourself this way AND I am sorry that whatever happened to you that made you develop this skill happened.

I do think in our society we try to cover pain up and put pretty details on it to make it more bearable when the truth is there is room for both the light and the dark when it comes to pain.

You can be a strong, resilient, survivor AND being completely shattered by the experience.

You can see a silver lining as a result of a painful situation AND feel engulfed by the storm cloud that created it.

There is room in this world for all of it. I do have a high tolerance for pain. This is true because of the pain my body has endured. I am quite skilled at detaching when I feel the need to protect myself. I have also become a skilled number. I have neither pride nor judgement towards these truths, they just are, and they are mine.

I guess what I am wondering is, will this will always be my truth? As work on rebuilding my relationship with my body and I go back to those places of pain and allow myself to finally feel it will my ability or want/need to numb still exist? Is it possible that I could get to place where I see pain as just a part of life and not longer fear it?

I don’t have answers for this right now but it was an interesting realization to wake up to.

numb

 

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2 thoughts on “Badge of Honor

  1. This is thought provoking. I understand the dilemma of pain thresholds being both an accomplishment and scar tissue. In a conversation where my counselor told me I was strong, and I stared back blankly, just watching myself, just thinking, this wasn’t a choice. This isn’t about pride or good job. This was a necessity. I think I responded saying something about needing to be strong. She made an observation about living in survival mode….emotional strength and emotional pain tolerance can be similar. Not chosen. Developed out of necessity. Not less painful because of the necessity. Just there, demanding survival.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “This wasn’t a choice”. That is so powerful. It is so true, it wasn’t a choice. I mean maybe it was but there weren’t good options. The choice was develop this tolerance, learn how to numb, do whatever you have to do to to take care of yourself even if that means learning how not-to-feel OR what..? What would have happened if we hadn’t developed this piece of ourselves that holds pain so the rest of us doesn’t have to? Personally I don’t think I want to know..

      Like

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