RANT: The Hierarchy of Pain

Today when I got home from my overnight shift, I stayed up for a little while to spend time with Diana and William. Normally I come in and lay down for a nap right away because (1) I have to get my other three kids later on in the day, and (2) I have ANOTHER overnight to do.

So anyway, I went downstairs for a nap around 11:30am. I woke back up at 3:00pm. I’d fallen asleep with the TV on; some mid-afternoon talk show was on the air when I woke up. The blinds and shade were drawn so the room looked dark enough to fool you into thinking it was nighttime. For a moment I felt like it was 2006 again, when I was a full-time employee at Vanderheyden Hall (as opposed to the part-timer I am now), and I was single with only my twin daughters. But here’s the catch: I’m NOT that guy anymore. Now I have a wife and four kids. One of them lives with me, but I still feel like I hardly see him (or my wife) because I have to work so much.

I don’t know what happened. I just got into this funky mood where I thought to myself, “There HAS to be more to life than this! How can I be in my mid-thirties and still have to put all this effort in? Where did I screw up and not plan right?” It dawned on me that a lot of people are in this spot, but that did nothing to get me out of this bizarre half-angry, half-sad mode.

I’m sure someone out there will stumble upon this blog and say, “Oh, man, what a whiner!” And the sad thing is, I think that’s a large part of what’s wrong with this world. No one bothers to have sympathy for what others go through. I am not saying you have to stop and coddle people, but damn…saying “sorry to hear that” is a lot better than saying, “Shut the hell up with that whining! *I’m* the one with real problems!” It’s something I like to call the hierarchy of pain.

The idea is simple: you think the pain you experience is the worst thing that anyone in the world could go through, and anyone who complains about feeling “less” pain than you is a whine-ass. Well, this theory is all nonsense because pain is a SUBJECTIVE thing. You can’t criticize people for not dealing well with a problem when, for you, that same issue would be as complicated as swatting away a fly. And do you know WHY you shouldn’t mock people for not handling things the way you would? BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT YOU!!!

The bottom line is this: EVERYONE has a different threshold for the level of pain they can take, and we shouldn’t be critical of someone whose threshold is “lower” (I think the adjective “different” would be more appropriate) than ours, because here’s the funny thing: when you mock them, that only ADDS TO THE HURT THEY WERE ALREADY FEELING!!!

I think the world would be a much better place if we could do away with this hierarchy, show sympathy for people who express some kind of pain, and then get on with maybe teaching them ways to deal with whatever is bothering them…provided they are open to it, of course. And that’s where the trick lies: if someone complains about a problem and you say “you could solve it by trying this or that,” they will reject it. The trick is to present a solution to people in a way where they feel it was THEIR idea.

Well, I haven’t quite mastered that latter part there. But I HAVE gotten better at not being so quick to ridicule someone for “whining” over a problem that I personally felt was “no big deal.” Still not perfect at that part either, but I’m working on it.


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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