6 votes

A World Without Pain

2 comments

  1. vivaria
    (edited )
    Link
    That was a strange and intriguing read. At the start, I had interpreted it as just... not feeling psychological pain? No fight or flight response? But, it was really interesting to later read that...

    That was a strange and intriguing read. At the start, I had interpreted it as just... not feeling psychological pain? No fight or flight response? But, it was really interesting to later read that she doesn't feel physical pain either. I'd assumed those were separate things? :V

    But, back to the no psychological pain bit... the "no stress response" bit reminds me of a fantasy I have, around the idea of SSRIs and other anxiety medications. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but I'm not on any medications. So, currently, I know my fight or flight response is way overactive relative to the norm... it's constantly responding to perceived threats that aren't actually threats to my livelihood. Like the article says:

    But what if our worst feelings are just vestigial garbage? Hypervigilance and pricking fear were useful when survival depended on evading lions; they are not particularly productive when the predators are Alzheimer’s and cancer.

    If I could just preemptively disable the response, my life would be so, so, so much more bearable. I'm in a state of constant tension, heart racing, headaches, back pain, sinus pressure, earaches, etc. just from doing everyday things I'm fully capable of. I feel exhausted constantly, and have to portion out a lot of extra time for tasks just to factor in time for recovering from anxiety attacks. I dream about finding a medication that dampens this response, just so I can live without feeling awful all of the time. But I've avoided meds because apparently that's the noble thing to do, and dependence on a drug is bad? I often remind myself of the "If you need X to function, then you're addicted"-esque dismissive comments thrown at people who use anxiety medications whenever I consider seeing a doctor again. So, I just don't and endure it instead.

    But, it's interesting to see that she lives her life seemingly well-adjusted? This is her default state. She doesn't really fall victim to the pitfalls of people addicted to feeling good. She seems perfectly capable of... whatever it is we humans are expected to do in life by the powers that be?

    So, what's the difference between her default state and someone whose gains a new default state as a result of medication? What makes it so that she doesn't receive scorn, but people who take medications do? The article talks about pharmaceutical companies trying to brew up a drug that affects the FAAH gene, w.r.t. to some futuristic sci-fi fantasy where no one feels pain. But, I'd love to have a conversation about society's perception towards the meds that are already out there. If they're just catching people up to what this woman experiences, do they deserve stigma?

    4 votes
  2. patience_limited
    Link

    “I know the word ‘pain,’ and I know people are in pain, because you can see it,” Joanne Cameron, a seventy-two-year-old retired teacher, told me, in the cluttered kitchen of her century-old stone cottage in the Scottish Highlands. Cameron has never experienced the extremes of rage, dread, grief, anxiety, or fear. She handed a cup of tea to Jim, her husband of twenty-five years, with whom she’s never had a fight. “I see stress,” she continued, “and I’ve seen pain, what it does, but I’m talking about an abstract thing.”

    Because of a combination of genetic quirks, Cameron’s negative emotional range is limited to the kinds of bearable suffering one sees in a Nora Ephron movie. If someone tells Cameron a sad story, she cries—“easily! Oh, I’m such a softie.” When she reads about the latest transgression by Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, she feels righteous indignation. “But then you just go to a protest march, don’t you? And that’s all you can do.” When something bad happens, Cameron’s brain immediately searches for a way to ameliorate the situation, but it does not dwell on unhappiness. She inadvertently follows the creed of the Stoics (and of every twelve-step recovery program): Accept the things you cannot change.