– I don’t want it to hurt.
It’s a precision that I often hear in my office. My attempts to explain the biology of pain, the cerebral imaginative process, fail in many cases. The “I” of the moment has felt alluded and has misinterpreted the speech. The victim has felt pointed out as guilty.
– It’s not you. It’s your brain.
– My brain is ME.
– Yeah, right.
If it hurts it means that the brain assesses threat. It’s a system of neurons from which states of connectivity emerge, groups of synapses (contact points between neurons) that sizzle at the same time, generating different perceptions. Pain is one of them. The brain “decides” it hurts. It wants it to hurt. It wants it because it considers that the individual should put aside his or her issues and focus on the danger that at that time, as predicted by the memories, is in a body area.
– I don’t understand why MY brain would want ME to suffer.
– YOUR brain has been selected throughout evolution to, among other things, ensure the safety of the organism. It does that by creating hypotheses of danger, uncertainty, risk, probability. It’s like your bodyguard. Don’t ask it for rationality. Fear isn’t always rational. Brains are fearful, depending on how fearful or daring the individual living in that body is.
– I need a solution, something to take away the pain. Last week I had to go to the emergency room to have someone give me meds.
– We must do something about your brain. Calm its absurd fears. The pain intensity is telling you to what extent the brain is scared. If you must go to the emergency room it’s because your brain requires it to calm down.
In security issues, we can easily access the unconscious, without hypnosis, divans or deep meditations. Somatic perception shows meanings of neuronal processing. Hungry? the brain wants you to eat … Itchy? your brain wants you to scratch yourself… Pain? your brain wants you to stay still and take YOUR reliever …
The function of pain is not to delve once again into the wounds of the individual, as interpreted by the defenders of somatization or the psychosomatic. If the head hurts it’s because there is cerebral, somatic fear to something physical, terrible, happening at that time in the head. If it hurts after a heartbreak it means that the brain considers the heartbreak a threat to the physical integrity of the head. Neither food nor hormonal changes, or the hassles at work or sentimental failures contain the immediate risk of causing a brain hemorrhage or meningeal infection.
– Yes. I DON’T think so.
– Yes … but your brain is acting “as if” all those triggers contained that threat.
The situation is similar to the one of the Immune System, the other alarmist system that sees danger everywhere … until proven otherwise. The vigilant immune cells carry in their membrane protein receptors-detectors. Each cell clone is dedicated to detecting one of them. It fixes it on the membrane, digests it and presents suspect areas that should be assessed in the network. Sometimes that protein is the cat’s, pollen’s or house dust mites’. If the immune “brain” believes that this protein belongs to a hazardous agent, it will decide to release the production of the clone to defend the body from an imaginary, absurd danger. Neither the cat, nor pollen or mites release germs, but for the body, for the immune system, there is danger of infection.
The “I” doesn’t have problems accepting the responsibility of YOUR immune system in an allergic reaction, but the same doesn’t happen with YOUR brain. It doesn’t let other people talk badly about it. It feels alluded.
– It can’t be MY brain. I’M not like that…
Yesterday I saw a patient that had come three years ago because of migraine. After the first visit, she decided not to come back. She went around taking painkillers, needles, homeopathy, herbs, diet, yoga and others until she ended up in the emergency room and had to come back to the Neurology office.
– I don’t want it to hurt me. What I need is a solution.
I think she finally realized that she hadn’t understood the first time she came. I’ll tell you how it goes…
The SELF is tough. The brain is a tricky construction. Otherwise the brain could not make the individual do whatever it wants:
For example, going to the emergency room for some meds …