The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

3Dec/090

The Stoic Animal Chronic Pain Theory

This is my theory about the different way in which animals and humans deal with chronic pain. I've long observed that animals appear to handle chronic pain far better than humans.

My dog Osita has arthritis so bad that her elbows are unbendable, totally fused.  Her vet said of her condition, "In my entire 34 year career I've never seen worse arthritis."  She was only 5 years old at the time.  And yet Osita betrays no sign of the tremendous pain her nerves must be signaling.  She always appears happy and leaps to her feet at the opportunity for walk or play.  If she goes on a very long walk she'll start limping quite badly towards the end, but she'll still perk up and wag her tail if you say a kind word.  And I've seen this sort of thing commonly in animals, they truly seem able to handle pain in a way that we humans typically can't.  It seems unlikely to me that evolution would have made our brains vastly different in their handling of pain, so if that doesn't explain the difference, what could?  The biggest related difference I can see is that we humans can do something about the pain we feel, and we know it.  We therefore have an expectation that we can reduce or eliminate our pain (even in those situations where we can't), and as a result, we refuse to accept our pain.  And by refusing to accept it, we perpetuate it.  We perpetuate our brain's perception that the pain signals being received are important and not to be muted (to the degree they otherwise could be and likely are in animals).

I think the same thing happens with emotional pain.  Because we know we have the power to influence the circumstances which may lead to or away from emotional pain, we find it very difficult (often impossible) to accept emotional pain we feel, and instead we perpetuate it (such as in the perpetual search for whys from a world which may never provide an adequate because).  Clearly there are reasonable whys, and some available becauses.  Some people probably use their whys wisely, but not me; and I am sure that prolongs some agonies.

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