What is pain? Let leaking soup help you understand pain experience - Be My Healer
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What is pain? Let leaking soup help you understand pain experience

canned soup analogy for chronic pain

What is pain? Why do I feel this way? Why no one understand the way I feel?

Every pain is unique every time it is felt. ​How does our brain came up with the algorithm to determine how much pain we feel? It will be tedious to through medical jargoons at you. So I am going to do it through two stories about soup companies.  

Why soup? I love soup.​

Corporate analogy for our pain nerve pathway 

Allow me to introduce you the canned soup manufactures: “Yummy” and “Tummy. I hope these two “real” cooperate America production company will help you understand our brain and ways to experience pain.

Yummy, Inc and Tummy Inc both make canned soups. At some point over the years, both company experienced the same problem: soup leaking out of containers.

The production line worker at Yummy reported this issue to his supervisor, who did some investigation, suspecting faulty containers, and reported to the head of the factory and regional CEO. When the regional CEO received the report, she sent out three emailed to different departments, requesting more information in this issue.

First email went to the department of record keeping, asking “If any similar problems happened in the past before, and how the issue was handled or managed?” The return email informed the CEO that “Yummy had incident where the containers was not properly sealed due to quipment issue. After replacing all the old machines, this problem was fixed.”

The second email went to department of public relations, asking “if the yummy customers are complaining about other issues currently”. The response was negative, and customers are happy with the soups and service.

The third email went to department of legal and morality, asking “if the leaking container problem is in conflict with currently established laws or public believes”. The department replied that “the public displays understanding that soup sometimes do leak out of containers, and that’s normal.”

The regional CEO, after getting all the replies, submitted a reports to the board of directors, suggesting that “minor” issue has occurred on the production line, and recommend purchasing new container to resolve this issue.

The end.

However, the Tummy,Inc is experiencing very different internal process responding to the very same issue.

On Monday (like it always does), a production line worker at Tummy spotted soup leaking out of its container. She reported to supervisor, who investigated and reported incident as resulted by faulty containers, to her superior. When the problem reached Tummy’s regional CEO, She sent out three emails to different departments, requesting more infos.

First email went to the department of record keeping, asking “If any similar problems happened in the past before, and how the issue was handled or managed?” The return email informed the CEO that “Tummy had a leaky soup pouch incident three years ago. The consumer was a mom who warmed up soup in microwave for her 2-year-old son. Burns was reported, medical bills and public condemnation was a MESS. Tummy,Inc is still recovery from that draw back. This is nasty problem.”

The second email went to department of public relations, asking “if the yummy customers are complaining about other issues currently.” The response was negative, however, the company is planning advertising campaign around their scene for “No mess, No fuss, First-Day-Of-School lunch box”. Leaking soup can destroy this campaign like ice on fire. Talking about bad timing! Geez.

The third email went to department of legal and morality, asking “if the leaking container problem is in conflict with currently established laws or public believes”. The department replied that “new study found that poorly sealed can products can be worse than 10-day-old left-overs. People will believe that we are feeding them cancers.”

The regional CEO, after getting all the replies, suffered from anxiety attack. Eventually, she put together a report for the board of director. In the reports, she describes about a critical issue that potentially threaten the wellbeing of the Tummy,Inc. And in the report, she suggest the foolowing

· Suspending local soup production to allow full length investigating in the issue of leaking soup out of containers

· Suspending ongoing advertising campaign to prevent adverse effect to the company reputation

· Call for company wide attention to report similar issues in all production lines

· Call for legal consultation to prepare for possible lawsuit

· Cut down investment and expense budget

· Prepare for the worst scenario and potential threat to the Tummy,Inc’s existence

· Cross your fingers, pray to your deity, and start collecting memorabilia

pain is unique

The end.

What does leaking soup has anything to do with pain.

The system that dictates how we experience pain, in my opinion, is very much similar to a large and complex corporation, with many different channels of input and output in the managing system. When the pain signal reaches your brain, before your brain informs you of the “adverse sensation”, a large amount of information interchange is already happening.

brain nerve pathways for chronic pain

Your mid brain and thalamus,

  • bounce information with your limbic system (checking life time worth of memories and emotional attachments),
  • and your active cognitive system (checking the current mental and physical status, making sure how relevant this pain is to what you are doing and thinking right now)
  • And your higher reasoning establishment (checking if this pain interferes with your values, beliefs, moral standards, your world views)

After all that “talking” amongst your brain cells via neural cellphones, they collective make a report to your brain cortex. What you experience as pain is part of this report.

Why does this process matter to you?

It matters because this process makes every single pain experience UNIQUE.

It explains how different individuals experience same injury drastically different. It also explains why a single treatment can have a whole spectrum of results. If you do not understand the power of our brain coming up with the algorism to dictate our pain experience, our chance of getting full recovery from painful injury is as good as slot machines.

Luckily, human are optimistic creatures in general. Most of us rather believe that things will turn out fine. Thus, most of our pain is temporary, tolerable, and harmless.

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However, If you pain is lingering, worsening and effecting your health and life month or years after your initial injury, or if you have went through multiple healthcare facilities and nothing is helping, understanding what you feel as pain may help you find a new road to “feeling better”.

Final Thoughts

Final thought: All pain is unique and personal. So many of you can open your heart to accept people whose behavior, culture, sexuality baffle and unease you, and yet still love them. However, we do not understand other’s pain experience as well, and we can’t help but to judge from time to time.

"What? That poke with needle? That doesn’t hurt, does it? What a baby. "

If you cannot wrap your mind around another human being’s pain experience. Just accept it.


Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.

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