How Do You Rate Other’s Pain?

“How do you rate your pain?”

The question revolutionized the way we looked at pain in a medical setting.  Instead of trying to determine if a patient was “really” hurting, it recognized the subjective nature of pain.

Not everyone hurts the same way.  I’ve walked on a broken toe for a week without really noticing.  As a child, I reacted so calmly to breaking both bones in my forearm that nobody (including myself) thought x-rays were necessary for more than two weeks.  But sinus pressure reduces me to a quivering whimpering mess.

It’s a hard lesson to learn with physical pain.  It’s harder to realize that the exact same thing is true with emotional pain.

It is all too easy to look at someone else’s pain and say “I’ve been through worse.”  It is all too easy to dismiss another person’s difficulties because you went through something worse, or they have an advantage you don’t, or whatever excuse seems reasonable at the time.  It’s easy to dismiss someone else’s emotional pain as trivial.  As something that can’t really hurt all that badly.

And just like everyone who thought I didn’t hurt my arm that badly all those years ago, you’d be wrong.

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