Which one is worse? Does it have something to do with the level of control over the trigger (or the perception over that control)? How do these two influence each other?
There are probably many factors that need to be taken into consideration for this topic and I’m sure I’ll miss a few, but let’s take this from an overall choice (if we can call it like that). Of course, it would be better to have no pain, but if we would have a choice, what kind of pain would we chose? The physical one or the mental one?
The duration, intensity, source and pain threshold are some of the most important factors that influence that decision. Each of us has different pain thresholds, so for the same source and intensity, which type of pain could we endure the most? The thing is that it might be harder to locate that pain. When some part of our body hurts, we can locate that easier than when we have some mental suffering. This might tilt the balance towards physical pain because once we know what hurts us, we can do something to fix it (or not), but at least we can come up with a plan (pills, surgery and so on). When we feel some sort of mental pain, it’s not that easy to locate it so we won’t be that specific. We can’t say that our perception about something/someone hurts, can we?
We often use physical terms to describe mental pain. We talk about a broken heart from a mental point of view, not a physical one. A broken leg is not that metaphorical, is it? Having a hole in the soul is not the same with having a hole in the hand. This last hole might need some immediate attention if it’s too big, but we can walk around with the hole in our soul for a while until it gets too hard to endure. Both of these holes are able to interrupt our daily routine, but the physical one has a immediate influence, whilst the mental one has a long term effect.
One type of pain can create the other, but not necessarily. There are many cases about people that went through high levels of physical pain because they had a strong mindset, but I believe this doesn’t apply the other way around. A strong body doesn’t necessarily drive us through high levels of mental pain. If we’re anxious or sad, we won’t necessarily get better because we have muscles. Sure, if we think about this from a long term point of view, having a strong healthy body helps us have a strong mind too, but if we think about just a specific moment, when the mental pain is triggered, does that strong body make a difference? I don’t think so. But a strong mindset makes a difference when we face physical pain because it influences the threshold. Also, we can choose to eliminate that mental pain easier than the physical one. We can decide if we’re going to let some words or ideas to keep “provide” the pain, but we cannot decide to stop feeling the pain our hole in the hand causes.
If I have a choice, I prefer physical pain because I can give a certain meaning to it and if I label it as helpful for me in long term, I can find the required mental resources to get through it. If it’s not helpful in long term, I’ll figure out a way to move forward despite it. I find it harder to do the same when I face mental pain.
If you have to choose one of the two, what type of pain would you choose?