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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Gift of Pain: An Excerpt

Some cultural responses to pain nearly defy belief. Societies in Micronesia and the Amazon Valley practice a child birth custom called couvade (from the French word  for "hatching"). The mother gives no indication of suffering during delivery. She may break from work a mere two or three hours  to give birth, then return to the fields. By all appearances it is the husband who bears the pain during the delivery and for days afterward he lies in bed, thrashing about and groaning. Indeed if his travail seems unconvincing, other villagers will question his paternity. Traditionally, the new mother waits on her husband  and sits by his side to entertain the relatives who drop by to offer him congratulations.
Ronald Melzack tells of another cultural anomaly.
In east Africa, men and women undergo an operation-entirely without anaesthetics or pain reliving drugs-called "trepanation,"in which the scalp and underlying muscles are cut in order to expose a large area of the skull. The skull is then scrapped by the doktari as the man or woman sits calm. without flinching or grimacing, holding a pan under the chin to catch the dripping blood. Films of this procedure are extraordinary to watch because of the discomfort they induce in the observers, which is in striking contrast to the apparent lack of discomfort in the people undergoing the operation. There is no reason to believe that these people are physiologically different in any way. Rather the operation is accepted by their culture as a procedure that brings relief of chronic pain.

Both examples demonstrate the power of the mind which no scientist has fully discovered yet. If the mind can have such an influence to the body so that it will interpret pain differently, what benefit will it do to a man who believes positively? If we train our minds to see the good in every "bad" situations it will surely make a difference. 
But I see people who do better with pain. It helps them realized what the problem is. And it push them to such an extent that they leave their comfort zone and find new and higher grounds. For more than ten years of my life teaching in different localities and villages in the Philippines I had the opportunity to examine the everyday life of those people who actually became my friends. Some of them are farmers by trade but many farmers here in the Philippines are poor. Salted dried fish and eggplant are the favorite everyday menu. That   is everyday, with the variation of how you cook the eggplant. Fried eggplant. Eggplant salad. Boiled eggplant. Fried eggplant with egg. And the list goes on.
The children of these farmers are reared in this kind of life. They go to school in the morning and when school is over they go directly to the farm to help their parents. They carry on their shoulders a wooden pole with two buckets of water at both ends. This and many others are the everyday duty starting from seven years old until they graduate in college. Because of these pressures and hard labor they are given strength of heart and mind. They started to hope and dream for a better life. Because of pain they now understand how to live.

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