Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

Periodic Pain

Posted at — Jul 3, 2021

Remembering pain

I was in grave pain for some time and then, as with all other things, it subsided. I had sometime to think about the nature of pain.

One insight I explored is our ability to remember the feeling of pain.

I believe it’s difficult—perhaps impossible—to remember the magnitude of previous pain without physically re-experiencing it. We can remember (or remind) ourselves of how we reacted to the pain, but it seems hard to accurately remember the pain sensations that were felt.

For instance, I can remember a time I was punched, but that memory is centered around how I reacted to the pain of being punched. I can’t remember the physical sensations and feel what it was like to be punched.

This realization sprouted as a result of me reflecting on a set of recent events.

I broke my shoulder in a few places, sometime ago. I remember there was a fairly strong, acute pain. Throughout that recovery process I had developed a new found appreciation for my body. I held that belief sincerely. With time, my memory of the pain deteriorated. I forgot what it physically felt like to be in that pain and, it appears, with that my new found appreciation also weakened.

That is until a similar sort of thing happened again. I incur the same realizations and develop that same appreciation for what I once had.

While it appears each time I break some bones I regain some new perspective, this doesn’t seem like the optimal strategy.

How I can prolong the impact of these realizations? How can I maintain the memory of the pain so I constantly feel grateful for my current circumstance?

There’s a few approaches I converged on.


I think writing about my experience with the pain will serve as a time capsule. I can defer myself to these posts every now and then to regain perspective and remind myself of the thoughts I observed during this experience.

Periodic Pain Delivery (nonsensical thought experiment)

Writing definitely seems to be the approach that makes sense, especially as compared to what follows.

I wanted to entertain this thought experiment, still, because there’s a really interesting digression that stems from it.

The problem seems to be that we forget what physical pain feels like. With long enough gaps between large enough pain, we lose the perspective we once had.

The writing strategy aims to capture the sensations of pain, and will eventually allow me to reread a set of posts to find the missing perspective. This strategy aims to produce the sensations of pain so you don’t need to capture them.

So, how can we remind ourselves of pain periodically?

Well, maybe I punch myself every now and then. This way I maintain an understanding of pain.

OK, well how frequently will you incur this pain?

1 month cycles seem reasonable. Frequent enough that they stay top of mind, but spaced out far enough that it isn’t cumbersome.

It’s interesting that the result of my thought experiment led me to a implementing a periodic delivery of pain on 1-month cycles.

Then I realized that roughly 50% of the human population lives through a similar phenomenon.

I wonder what differences in gender are a result of the constant exposure to pain. How does a true understanding of consistent pain alter your world view, psyche, personality, emotional intelligence, maturity?

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