Addicted to Pain?

By Greg Baer M.D.

August 22, 2014

When she was a child, Margaret’s parents alternated between controlling and ignoring her. She had no idea what love, happiness, or a healthy relationship looked like, so when I met her at age 40, she was miserable and alone, with not one successful relationship in her entire history.

I loved her and guided her toward a path that would make her happy, but she responded with fear, anger, and accusations of betrayal and abandonment. Nothing I said or did made any positive difference.

I finally realized that Margaret had an addiction that years ago I would not have thought possible. Margaret was addicted to PAIN. In the past, I would have thought, That’s ridiculous. People AVOID pain.

Sure, their attempts to minimize it—lying, attacking, and so on—are often counter-productive, but we are all united at least in our desire to avoid it. Surely no one could be addicted to it. Addictions even defined as those substances and behaviors that we compulsively use to diminish our pain, so how could we use pain to diminish pain?

The reasoning is twisted, but yes, we can use pain to diminish pain. If we GET something from our pain, we can actually feel better. How? When we insist on indulging our pain—especially when we broadcast it far and near—the rewards can be many:

Pain can make us feel alive. Without love, our emptiness is unbearable. We feel worthless, as though our existence makes no difference whatever. We feel dead inside, and pain gives us a sense of being alive, however unpleasant. This is one reason people engage in self-mutilation—cutting. Their physical pain is preferable to the vacuum that occupies their souls.

Pain justifies our victimhood. As victims we loudly state a claim to the sympathy and cooperation of everyone within earshot. Victimhood gives us the illusion of power. It’s a hollow reward, but at the time it seems better than nothing. Imitation Love feels better than no kind of love at all.

Pain justifies our endless drama. When we cry out in pain, we create drama everywhere we go—enlisting everyone as actors in our play. It’s exhausting, but it gives us attention, a role in life, and a perverted sense of importance that matter a great deal when otherwise we believe we would be great lumps of nothingness.

Pain can become a punishment we believe we deserve. Without love, we feel worthless, and those who fail to love us often make us feel responsible for this condition. As children we believe we deserve to be punished for being so unlovable, and pain satisfies that need for punishment.

Pain was not meant to be a punishment, nor a reward. It is simply information, alerting us to a lack of love that must be remedied. When we identify people addicted to pain, we must help them stop their focus on the pain and instead refocus on the Real Love that is the genuine, lasting solution to it.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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