June 11, 2012
It is difficult to over exaggerate how truly awesome the human body is. Whether you believe that our bodies are the pinnacle creation of a Higher Power or finely tuned products of biological evolution, you can’t disagree with how incredibly efficient it operates on a micro and macro scale. God and/or Evolution goes big on everything. Even the smallest parts of our biological system are capable of doing amazing functions amazingly well. Instead of going on and on about the many great attributes, we can just say that our bodies are pretty cool.
Although, most of us love our bodies there are certain aspects of the human system that can cause a great deal of frustration. One of the most disliked mechanisms in our body is pain. Some people do like pain, but to most, pain is something we wish we could live without. Living without pain would be pretty deadly though, and certain genetic abnormalities cause a life of no pain for certain people. Those who face such an oddity must live very carefully and focus on their bodies in ways that most of us would never consider. Consider what it would be like to be without pain and accidentally have your hand over an open fire. Pain tells us that something is wrong and we must quickly react to save ourselves from harm. Without pain we could be seriously and permanently injured from that flame. We could possibly die. Instead pain is a safety who’s purpose is keeping us alive and well. In that case, pain is GREAT.
Not everything about pain is perfect though. Pain affects us on many levels. Long term chronic pain or even single moments of extreme pain can affect the mind and change the way we interact with those around us. Pain also can be too distracting for a particular situation. Pain is a distraction. It is a warning signal that is strong enough to stop us in our tracks so we can stop the injury from worsening and take direct action in treating it. That change in focus could possibly get us killed. If we are injured in a fight and lose our focus on ending the attack, we could sustain even more injuries than if we didn’t experience the pain of the original injury. Once again, without the pain we may be able to end the conflict easier, but then later succumb to an injury we did not know existed. Pain is not perfect, but it works.
Luckily, we are also capable of controlling the way we process and control pain. We are not forced to focus ourselves on only it. Many people have learned to accept it, understand it, and keep their focus on the more important tasks at hand. I have been lucky to have never had to deal with extreme injuries from a deadly confrontation. I have a lot of respect for those individuals that are capable of sustaining life threatening injuries and still get the job done. It is easy for me to be brave as I have never endured that, but to be brave in the face of death while in extreme excruciating pain is something we all should aspire to. We should aspire to it because it is that kind of focus and bravery that will save ourselves and our loved ones in violent combat. We don’t have to love pain but we must able to deal with it with a strong mind and a firm hand.
Dealing with a chronic disease, I have been given a unique understanding of pain. It is extremely difficult. Some days I can literally feel like I have had every bone in my body broken and crushed with a hammer. Those days can happen, yet I am still happy and focused on my daily duties. Other times, I can have a day where I have minimal pain. You would think, I would be even happier with such a day but it is easy to lose focus and “feel” that small amount of pain is 100 times worse than the day when everything felt broken. It is amazing how easy it is to feel better or worse independently of the actual pain level. Our minds are miraculous wonders of intelligence and wisdom, and sometimes purely stupid in practice.
Dealing with chronic pain and injuries is a very dangerous problem when being attacked. Injuries and disabilities can slow our reaction time and create distractions. A disabled person is also more likely to deal with predators. Human predators like predators in the rest of the animal kingdom will seek out the easiest and weakest targets available. This will apply to any non disabled person the moment they are injured in combat. You may have started as the stronger party, but that upper hand can quickly be stricken from you. Some individuals with disabilities can actually be quite capable of defending themselves with more efficiency in the face of pain. We know it, we deal with it daily, and we have had more opportunity to tell it to take a back seat until the job is done.
So, how do we learn to do this? I don’t suggest breaking your toe and forcing yourself to run a mile to learn to deal with pain. Maybe there would be some benefit to such extreme practice, but we can learn the same lessons in much more pleasant and safer ways. 99.999% of us have dealt with pain on some level. Those that practice combative sports will deal with pain often. If you box, you will be punched in the nose. A landed good quality strike WILL HURT. It most likely will never cause you life threatening harm though. If you want to continue boxing you will have to learn to accept it and keep practicing through it. Our minds over time learn that this is something that will happen often. We start to “feel” that particular pain less, and we focus little on it. Focusing on something else tends to be an effective pain killer. When I exercise, I focus on the exercise. The extra movement causes those nerve endings to fire much more than sitting on the couch watching TV, yet I get so wrapped up with the particular exercise that I actually “feel” and process less pain. Just sitting on the couch can be fairly painful at times because it is easy to focus solely on the aches.
We don’t need to be boxers, martial artists, or warriors to understand or learn those methods of focused pain relief. It sounds simplistic, but we can tell ourselves that pain sucks, but lets focus on something else. Meditation is a legitimate form of pain control. Scientific studies on “Mindfulness Meditation” has shown that pain intensity ratings can be reduced by an average of 40% after short training sessions. We often think of meditation as sitting with our legs in a pretzel while humming deeply. Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of mental focus, awareness, and acceptance. Your “meditation” can be hitting a punching bag, target or practical shooting, jogging, running, or more useful physical activities. Pain will eventually work its way into our “meditations”, but when our focus is unbreakable from the task our minds file the pain signals in a less important folder.
In a life threatening situation our focus is preserving our lives and/or the innocent lives around us. By practicing your focus through dedicated training, you will be able to endure more pain than you would think possible. I’ve read many interviews with warriors who endured the most unimaginable injuries and their focus on saving the guy next to them gave them relief from that pain until their mission was accomplished. That’s pretty awesome. Don’t expect this focus to just happen miraculously. I hear from many firearm instructors that this miraculous pain management is typical and will just instantly occur when it is needed. Adrenaline is a GREAT pain reliever, but it is far from perfect. There are those that just give up when an injury occurs. It may be a conscious decision, but it is one that is influenced by fear and PAIN. Pain tends to stoke the fires of fear.
Constant practice and training with our firearms teaches our body and mind to perform those tasks more efficiently under stress. It also allows us the ability to cut through the pain. When you train and practice, do it with zen like focus. Focus on each principle and perform each action with purpose, intent, and “perfection.” When pain strikes us, we must recognize it, accept it, and put it in its proper place. If we have the luxury to stop what we are doing and treat it, we should do so. When that is not applicable, we must stay focused on the task. Your level of focus will decrease your level of pain. The warriors path is a demanding one, but the road will benefit your life in far more ways than just when extreme circumstances arise. Learning to deal with, live with, and control the effects of pain will improve your overall safety and happiness in life. Learning to control pain, just like our bodies, is simple to employ if practiced consistently even though it is built on a complex interaction of parts.