Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cursing through pain

Imagine this: you are walking barefooted through your house and run toe-first into a table leg. Response?


Does this help?

According to recent research reported in the Journal of Pain, probably. The length of time undergraduates could tolerate having their hands submerged in ice water  increased significantly when they were told to swear throughout their ordeal. Proposed mechanism of action? The swearing activated the fight or flight response which in turn released endogenous opioids. But there was a problem of tolerance. Students who reported swearing as part of their  every day lexicon had much less of an effect.

So imagine a child experiencing the same situation as above. What would be their response?

Usually crying until the pain passed.

Steve and I always wondered at what age does the response to acute pain morph from crying to swearing. Adults rarely cry in response to pain. Scream maybe. I remember my experience giving birth to Shanna during a time in which LaMaze training strongly suggested that you were a bad mom if you asked for pain killers. During the moments I wasn't focused on my own misery, I was very aware of the screams of my fellow laborers. Was I in a torture chamber? I heard no crying. This screaming seems to be a thing of the past. I've been on labor wings at least 6 times since then with my own children's  births and while coaching my grandchildren and nieces' births.

Josh has played soccer since he was 6. He and his fellow players have had plenty of opportunity to experience pain. There are strong prohibitions against boys crying that increase as they age: from both the soccer dads whispering Man Up!! and the teammates and opponents disdain for crybabies. Below ten, crying was an accepted response. After 14, no one dared cry though a teammate at that age had a compound arm fracture (bone could be seen penetrating the skin) and there was some crying but the accident was so horrific that no one dare criticize the response. Around the same time, the boys' response to pain morphed into wreaking revenge on whomever they thought responsible. The older they got, closer to 19, the more bent on revenge. I called this testosterone poisoning. Now that they are adults, they are much more able to control their impulses though not all the time.

We have been dog sitting Sunny. She was very unhappy about it and whined and moaned for about an hour straight. Her voice sometimes sounds human. At night she paced so not much sleep for us. Her owners should pick her up any minute.

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