Pain Tolerance

We Can Only Tolerate So Much

Frits Ahlefeldt PD, via Public Domain Pictures

I was answering a comment on the Facing the Monster post I wrote recently, and I had this brilliant thought that I wanted to share with everyone.

We all have our limits. Humans are inherently finite. There’s only so much we can do, so much we can take. We all have a tolerance to pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or even spiritual pain and everyone’s tolerance level is different.

An easy way to understand tolerance is to think about pharmaceuticals. Eventually, the patient will build a tolerance to the medication they’re taking. The best example I can give is a painkiller. After taking a painkiller such as Vicodin (hydrocodone) for a long period of time, your body will need a higher dosage to get the same effect that you initially had when you first started the medication. This is known as tolerance, and it has the same definition for pain as it does for pharmaceuticals.

As someone who suffers chronic pain, I know this all too well. I’ve had chronic pain for 14 years now due to a car accident that left me with a neck injury, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and bone spurs as well as the chronic pain and migraines. I’ve become very perceptive to variances in the type of pain I have, and its severity. As the years have worn on, I’ve also become more tolerant of it. My pain tolerance level is much higher today than it was 14 years ago.

We all have varying levels of pain tolerance, and those levels change constantly throughout our lives. This tolerance applies to several different areas such as:

  • how much stress we can handle
  • how much aggravation we can take before we explode
  • how much emotional turmoil we can endure before we crack

As we go through life, our ability to tolerate these various types of “pain” increases. It’s as if the pain is a drug, and we’re building a tolerance to it. In the world of pharmaceuticals, this is not a good thing; however, it is a very good thing in life.

Where am I going with this?

I don’t think humans have a finite tolerance for pain. We go through so much in our lives. It’s usually one thing after another. Many people describe life as a roller coaster ride of emotion. I suggest this roller coaster allows us to have an infinite tolerance for pain, stress and anything else life throws at us.

Essentially, the point I’m trying to make with this post is that as we age, we’re capable of tolerating larger amounts of stress, and how we deal with that stress determines the quality of our life.

Most people would probably assume that my quality of life isn’t what it should be (my parents are incredibly guilty of this), and I do bitch about it quite a bit. But my tolerance for the kind of crazy shit that has been happening lately is much higher than it was when I was 22 (I’m 34) and this is something I’ve just realized. Sort of an Ah-Ha moment if you will (which is why I’m sharing it with all of you – sharing is caring!).

So the next time something goes wrong, just tell yourself – “I’m building my tolerance.” Even if things get worse, it’ll be easier to deal with next time. 😀


6 comments on “Pain Tolerance

  1. Well said Melissa and will say this at 35 years old, I am know some of the stuff I put up with now and deal with I never would have been able to do at 25. So, I do very much agree with you on this theory. That said I can’t say enough how much I truly hope things will get better for you guys real soon.

    • Thanks Janine, and I know if any of this stuff happened when I was in my 20’s, I would have had a nervous breakdown! I’m quite thankful for that pain tolerance right now, let me tell ya lol 🙂

  2. Rich Rumple says:

    Melissa, I agree, but somewhat disagree. I do think we learn to tolerate it better, but the initial frustrations still tend to be evident. There also comes a point where one asks themselves, “How much more can I take?” Suicide is very prevalent among the aged, especially after the death of a partner. The will to continue facing the pain, be it mental or physical, simply no longer seems worth the effort. Thus, whether it be simply the stopping of taking heart medicine, or turning on the gas stove with the pilot light off, many give it up. Life is a battle, and that can’t be forgotten, unless of course, you’re born with a silver spoon. Sometimes, one just grows weary of fighting. If the family and friends fail to see this happening, and fail to provide support and love, the callouses of age and battles endured, giving up and seeking eternal peace could seem like an attractive alternative. Just my thoughts. Strong post!

    • I also agree and disagree. For those who choose it, suicide/death is the only way out, otherwise you have to adapt. Like you said many give up, but they choose to do so. I think a lot of has to do with perception. I think the people who (unfortunately) choose to end their life perceive that they are at the end of their rope, that they can’t tolerate anymore. Unfortunately, I think these are people who do not have someone around that can help them see that they are capable of tolerating much more than they already have. You said life is a battle. With all due respect, that’s a perception. Personally, I see life as a learning experience not a battle because my mind perceives everything with extreme curiosity. I’m not saying yours doesn’t, I just can only speak for myself. I have no idea how you perceive life, and I think the fact that people, for whatever reason, are not always conscious of that perception (and that everyone has a different one) is the cause of the majority of problems society faces today as well as the majority of suicides. I believe there are some suicides that are the unfortunate result of a chemical unbalance left untreated.

      Thank you for the wonderful comment. I enjoy these types of discussions because the stretch the mind. Unfortunately, it’s rare that I get to converse this way with anyone other than my husband!

      • Rich Rumple says:

        Melissa, great response. Yet, we must remember that perception is a reality to those experiencing it. We utilize many tools to overcome various “perceptions”, such as motivational techniques, attitude adjustment processes, and keeping ourselves as sheltered as possible from the negatives. I’ve gone through life with an attitude similar to yours. Yet, to those that haven’t had to “fight” to keep themselves in the flow of society, “the pain” of a disaster can be something they’re unable to cope with. (i.e. the many businessmen that committed suicide in during the stock market crash that began the great depression). To those that don’t remember the standard, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up”, and use it to surpass the hurdles they’re faced with, the perception, or reality as they see it, may very well be that furthering their life just isn’t worth the effort, or the enduring of the pain that accompanies it. The elderly couple, finding itself separated by death of one, may very well fit into this category.
        I used to get people stirred up on rainy days by declaring, “Just enjoying another sunshine, blue sky day in the land of florescent lighting.” When challenged, I’d state, “Take a jet above the clouds and you’ll find the sunshine and blue sky. You just have to remember it’s just giving the rain a chance to wash off the dust.” There will always be those that can’t see the sunshine above the rain clouds. It’s simply a matter if they wish for the skies to clear, or say the ark isn’t worth waiting for.
        Just some thoughts. I, too, enjoy a little mental exercise every now and then. I think we may become good friends. : ) Many thanks!

  3. Melissa, I love your thinking here! I know I had a good year last year, but this year hasn’t started off too well. Already it’s medical expenses, we’re being made to move (and they’re taking their time selling the place so we’re in limbo), family dramas, etc. So I needed to read this today. You’ve given me hope. I will keep repeating that to myself and just believe things will get better. You of all people are the best example for this. You’re a rock! 🙂 Thank you!!

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