The Two Pains

Physical pain unlocks emotional pain

“Now pain, like the other evils, may of course recur because the cause of the first pain (disease, or an enemy) is still operative: but pain has no tendency, in its own right, to proliferate. When it is over, it is over, and the natural sequel is joy.” (Lewis C.S., The Problem of Pain)

On Tuesday, I brought baby Benedict to the polyclinic for his vaccination. The little boy was so brave. He grumbled a little when the injection was being administered. Following that, he was happy and well again. He climbed off my lap and toddled happily to the door where he played with the lock and handle. I was impressed.

I considered the many times in my youth when the physical sensation of pain stirred self-pity and tears.

I assumed that my son would display similar behaviour – To grumble and sob endlessly after pain (eg. falls and vaccinations). But he does not. This got me thinking.

Physical pain is inevitable – especially if you are a little child. Your growing body imbues you with a sense of clumsiness and awkwardness. As you attempt to explore the world with this clumsy body, you will inevitably sustain a good number of falls. This is completely normal.

As C.S. Lewis wrote – “When pain is over, it is over. The natural sequel is joy.” Why then did the young Denise dwell so long in pain? Perhaps this was a case where ‘the first pain was still operational’ – the deep seated emotional pain.

When I was growing up, I felt a constant sense of neglect. I never felt truly loved. It was true that from time to time, I felt fleeting sensations of happiness (when I received gifts and clothing from my parents); But I never felt the true joy and love that comes from constant parental presence, protection and care.

My parents, as with many parents in those days, had been busy with their work and affairs. As a result, at a very young age, I made it my life’s mission to find someone to love me. There was a void in my heart that needed filling. I was envious of other children who had parents who cared for them.

In addition to being needy and love deprived, I was also a very emotional child. I believe that this was partly attributable to my parent’s Spartan manner of child raising.

I can still recall instances when I fell down on the floor and grazed my knees. My mother would assume that I had done so deliberately and that I was being naughty. Instead of being comforted, I was scolded. These incidents opened a well of pain in my heart.

In my earlier years, I cried bitterly whenever I experienced physical pain. The physical pain was merely a trigger for a deeper seated emotional pain.

I was quite a good Taekwondo fighter in my twenties.

In my later years, I learned to negate and ignore my pains – I became an emotionless robot. In a way, it was good. The skill was surprisingly helpful in my Taekwondo sparring. I could endure great pain without showing emotion. As a result, I achieved some merit in the arena. My personal life was a wreak though – I lacked empathy and compassion in any sense.

Bringing up Benedict has been a challenge for me. I am challenged to bring him up in a manner different from what I had received from my parents.

I wanted to give him what I perceived to be the most loving kind of upbringing he could receive. This does not mean that I wanted to pamper or coddle him at every turn. In my mind, he was to become a warrior with emotion – strong yet compassionate.

In his early months of crawling and subsequent walking, I would smile at him and reassure him when never he suffered minor falls. As a result, the little boy would simply pick himself up after a fall and continue playing.

When he had major falls, I would run to him as fast as I could, cradle him in my arms and dry his tears – no scolding, just love.

I wanted to assure him of his own strength (that he was not a fragile little thing), to shower him with constant love and to encourage him to explore the world bravely – knowing that I would always be present to comfort him if things went wrong.

Apparently this manner of upbringing has been successful. Right now, my son is displaying the expected sequel of pain – joy. There is little or no recurring first pain.

Pain and upbringing are particularly touchy subjects. I do not mean to shame my parents with this post. Indeed, through the years I have began to understand that my parents had tried their best to provide for my sister and I. They were faced with many limitations. I am grateful for what I had received.

My twin sister and I as children – I’m the goofy one in red.

Now that I am a mother, I want to provide the best kind of upbringing for my son. This means that it is my responsibility to learn from the mistakes of my parents and to constantly correct the mistakes I make along the way.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Have a blessed day ahead!

Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)