Why is pain good?

© Diamond Farah

If you’re like me, the thing that motivated you to change your ways in the past was necessity. Something went wrong, basically.

I’ve noticed this trend in everybody really, hence the wise old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Perhaps you were hit by depression, gained weight or started feeling tired all the time.

The problem when you’re back on top is that you’re not motivated to change. It’s easy to backslide into old habits because you’re no longer in pain from your actions…

Pain is good?

When I originally made radical changes to my lifestyle, and they were radical, I was pretty much a zombie. The necessity for change was massive and so was the motivation. CRISIS!

But I’ve noticed in myself that the better I feel, the less likely I am to make changes or be motivated. So pain is actually good — in the sense that it shows you in no uncertain terms that what you’re doing is hurting you…

When I was very ill, every bad thing I did hit me like a ton of bricks. Car fumes, bread, coffee, you name it — the effect was instant.

That gets me thinking — normally, apparently healthy people have resilience. They don’t immediately feel the bad effect of doing bad things.

Are you truly healthy?

Of course, feeling good is what we want, all the time, but if you think you’re healthy — if you’re having no symptoms you need to understand that this could be due largely to your resilience, or stored vitality. That stored vitality is limited and guess what, when it goes, it can go quickly and leave you floundering around wondering what the hell hit you!

Hans Seyle described this phenomenon in his theories on adaption to stress as the “exhaustion” phase. The preliminary phases are “reaction” and “resistance”. The resistance phase can last a long time and is the reason we don’t pay for our mistakes immediately.

One of the benefits for me, of being ill for so long (13 years) is that I learnt what is bad for my (and your) body. As I said, bad stuff would hit me instantly because I had no resilience, no vitality. No RESISTANCE. Vitality amounts to ‘how much you can resist’ — resist stress, disease, pollutants, short term nutrient deficits and so-on.

It’s unlikely that anyone will be motivated to change their ways without at least some pain. Look at Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a well known fact that folks have to hit rock bottom before they’ll do anything. We’re THAT resistant to change. We won’t even do it when the cause and effect are staring us in the face! NO, often we have to wait for rock bottom. Do or Die.

Are you a quick learner?

If you’re like me, that learning process is very slow. I go round and around and have to experience the same obvious lesson many times before enough is enough. But the quicker we learn, the less pain we’ll have.

The best learners don’t even have to suffer. No, they are wise enough to learn from others but hey, I’m not one of those wise people. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming into life’s lessons and have to re-sit my exams many times. I’m your basic self-destructive personality! Which basically amounts to deep-seated, hard to shift bad habits.

No pain, no gain?

But perhaps the worst situation of all is to have no pain, to be physically so strong and resilient that you have no actual breakdowns. There’s just a slow, imperceptible decline of vitality into ill-health as you grow old. By then, it’s even harder to change. Get ready to welcome Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or maybe a combination.

Of course, there are no guarantees only probabilities — so I’m going to try and hedge my bets.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve had your fair share of pain — just remember that after you’ve had your initial surge of motivation and start to feel good again, that the feeling good is BAD, it’s dangerous if you don’t remember your lesson.

So, feeling good is bad and feeing bad is good

Good in the sense that you start to question everything. I did…

  • Why do people get sick?
  • Why are there 10,000 different illnesses?
  • Why is it nearly impossible to make sense of health information due to constant contradictions?
  • Why is it so hard to make changes?
  • Why Why WHY!?

The truth is that there is one cause for 99 out of 100 illnesses: Not living right.

How much pain do you need before you learn that lesson? Hopefully a lot less than me! Maybe my new mantra will work for you too…

“I don’t want to go backwards!”

So what’s the answer?

The answer is to understand clearly the concept of resilience and vitality — that these are precious and not to be squandered.

But it’s not enough just to be wise, to see the truth, to see clearly cause and effect. Even when you’re highly motivated and know what to do, it can be difficult to change your habits because the force of habit is so strong.

You need to understand this subtle force if you’re going to be able to act on your new found wisdom effectively.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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5 thoughts on “Why is pain good?

  1. A StumbleUpon review…

    A wealth of knowledge about healthy living presented in a easy, friendly format. Thanks Mike and James for bringing some order in my chaos! :-) Notrouble


  2. Hurray I’m still “young!” Lovely to hear from you Claudia.

    “…suddenly one thing hits and progresses from health to a debilitating disease to death in a short period of time.”

    Ever heard the phrase “He was perfectly healthy and then one day he dropped down dead with a heart attack!”? Some folks just don’t see the connections which is why I consider myself fortunate in many ways that I became sick :-)

    So pleased you found your dignity and peace and are helping the “youngsters” to see the light.

    Don’t you think it’s such a shame though that even when folks do see the light, that all the confusion surrounding what is optimal health wise becomes a major obstacle?

    Curiosity got the better of me and I checked you out in issue 36 of the hacres magazine. You look in great shape! Nice grandkids too :-)



  3. When I decided to make a major change in my lifestyle four years ago (from vegetarian to vegan to 85% raw), I was watching people about 10 years older than I was and didn’t quite like the picture. I am always refining what I want to be “when I grow up.” I was 63 at the time with no conditions or health issues.

    As you stated in your article, sometimes we can just “coast” along, seemingly “never sick a day in my life” and them suddenly one thing hits and progresses from health to a debilitating disease to death in a short period of time. I believe most of us have to “pay the piper,” though there are the rare few that live to 100 drinking, smoking, and cursing!

    I am not a gambler, so I decided to make some choices while I was still able!

    I lost 50 lbs, began gentle pilates (still am not convinced that sweatin’ and puffin’ is all that necessary), and removed what stress I could from my life.

    I am a health minister with Hallelujah Acres based out of Shelby, NC, and love to talk to “young” people in their forties and fifties about how they see themselves 10 years down the road.

    I know that mortality is a given for us all, but I choose each day to live so that hopefully when I pass from here to there, it will be with dignity and peace and a legacy of one who enjoyed life to its fullest.

    Claudia De Fino


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