Monday, October 07, 2002

pain
question (13 of 100)

Q: I know of some people for whom it seems pain is almost as necessary as breathing.

One of them consistently seeks out damaging relationships, throwing herself whole-heartedly into something she knows will end in tears. Another man periodically spreads gossip and rumors guaranteed to cause trouble and then stoically takes all the reprisals (sometimes with even a hint of a smile on his face) and does it again. There’s this older woman who stays in an abusive marriage, taking all the pain her husband metes out – verbally, emotionally, physically. And a long time ago, I knew a young man who wore his suicide-attempt scars proudly, eyebtow-raising symbols of his despair.

They are all intelligent people, either artists or professionals of great skill or talent in their fields, and they all share the need to hurt, to bleed inside or out. It makes me wonder why they stay, why they accept it, why they long for it.

Are they inured? Could it be that consistent exposure to pain dulled their senses? Is their hearts' skin so thick with scars that another cut doesn’t matter?

Are they defined by it? Could it be that they derive their sense of identity from the stings of words or fists or circumstances, and to remove the hurt would leave them empty or nameless?

Do they enjoy it? Have they blurred the thin line between pleasure and pain?

Do they look for sympathy? How can one not be moved by their daily excoriations? Is an understanding embrace at the end of a beating worth the beating?

Do they need help? Have they lost their sense of reason?

A: I don’t know.

But there they are, still going, still hurting. And after a while I fear my capacity to feel for them will ebb, with no change forthcoming despite the most heartfelt of advice and most desperate of tactics, and they’ll be marginalized by my uncomprehending gaze, like the roadside accident that you see and not see.

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