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Running away from pain

I have been in pain several times. Many times, I have known that I'm in pain. Sometimes, I have only noticed it after it has passed. And I have dealt with it in multiple ways as well. I have tried pretending that it doesn't exist. I have tried shrugging it off, thinking that it is only temporary and that it will go away. I have tried embracing it as a part of my life and living with it. I have tried running away from it, in the hope that it won't catch up. I have tried standing my ground and facing it, in an attempt to do what it takes to make it go away.

Despite all this, I'm still standing, and continue to face new kinds of pain and continue to deal with them in one or more of the ways above. To say that I'm still standing makes it seem a tad melodramatic. No, I haven't had to fight cancer or experience the loss of a loved one or anything of that sort. These have all been the kind of pain that you and I suffer from time to time, be it failing to reach a goal, facing rejection, experiencing heartbreak, seeing a dream come crashing down, or a nightmare come alive. Not melodramatic, but pain nonetheless.

Even though there are many ways of dealing with pain, there is no one way that is better than another. Each of the ways above have both worked and not worked under different circumstances and in different scenarios for me. This is not about that. But, the running away from pain seemed particularly interesting to me.

Of late, I have been faced with decisions, whose considerations boiled down to running away from pain. Running away from pain that is yet to come, to be precise. And I realised most of us make decisions that way. At least, a lot of people I've sought out advice from on these things have reasoned it that way. The consideration is always about whether you would be willing to live with the downside of making a decision. It is about reducing risk, reducing exposure to vulnerability and to loss, and maximizing the probability of return, the upside.

Even in the past, I have made many such decisions that have seemed to be the safe option, the one that has the minimum downside, the maximum value for (upside multiplied by probability of upside, minus the downside multiplied by the probability of downside). The rationally correct decision to make. But only it doesn't have that fulfilling feeling at the end of it.

As humans, we like stories of underdogs coming out on top. And that, by definition, are stories of people and teams beating the odds to succeed. It sends out a rush of adrenalin in us when we see that happen, or when we see ourselves overcome seemingly unassailable odds. Seeing that happen is what gives us hope to keep on dreaming, to believe that we stand a chance, that we don't have to be born with godlike abilities to make a difference, to make a mark.

It is a perfectly normal thing and a sane thing and a rational thing to do to make decisions that help us run away from the pain.

But it is the human thing to do to make decisions that help us run towards pleasure instead.

Let's be more human.

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