Tuesday, July 06, 2010

mental owwies vs. body boo boos

For those involved in the body modification community, pain is not something to be feared. Anticipated, maybe, but not something to be anxiously awaited in terror. For seasoned mod vets, pain is a part of the game, often leading to a gloriously euphoric ending. The pain is trivial compared to the beautiful outcome. For outsiders looking in, however, modders seem positively insane for undergoing their various painful procedures, crazy for voluntarily allowing another individual to stab, slice, poke, and thread one's flesh - all in the name of fashion and fun. Perhaps this perception encourages us even more, wanting to prove that a little pain is nothing to fear, that nothing scares us, that we are - if only for a moment - invincible.
Of course, even modders are scared of some intense types of pain - breaking one's femur, enduring a skull fracture, losing an eye the hard way. We're certainly not fearless, just desensitized to the more bearable breed of pain. Mental suffering, however, is a very different game. No matter what kind of physical pain you've been through, nothing can prepare you for the tortuous plague that is mental disorder. Even a lifetime of training in the fields of psychology/psychiatry is worth not a damn thing when a professional is faced with tackling his or her own mental demons.
No matter how seemingly stable, no one is exempt from the human fair-share of sickness in the head. Modders often use body modification as an escape of sorts from mental afflictions, with varying results. Whether the attempt at therapy be in the form of a memorial tattoo, a ceremonial suspension, or a ritual cutting, bodily pain can be a temporary or even permanent solution to mental anguish. Countless individuals have reported overcoming distress by proving to themselves through suspension that their mind is stronger than even their body. Others have, as a less permanent cure, distracted themselves from the seemingly never-ending voices of doom in their heads by enduring a long, climactic slice of the flesh via a fresh razor. And it's not uncommon for modders who are having particularly bad day to attempt to take control of something, anything, and acquire a sparkly new piercing to keep them company and give them something to nurture and direct attention to. No matter the official psychological stance on utilizing physical pain to overcome mental pain, many will attest to the technique's wonders.
This got me wondering, has mental pain ever acted as a cure for physical pain? Not that I can think of - actually, just the opposite! As many New Age believers will tell you, the power of positive thinking and a solid mental state are limitless. We can cure our own diseases, or those of others. We can talk ourselves through a painful medical procedure and direct attention away from the anguish. We can even laugh our way to a cure for cancer.
So, which is worse? Mental or physical pain? From personal experince, I'd have to go with mental, but I guess it depends on who you ask: someone who's gone through extreme physical pain or someone who's seen the worst of what the mind can do. The grass is always greener on the other side - but that's why no matter the type of pain, we all emerge from it more appreciative of a painless life than we ever could have been before seeing how bad things can get.

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