My dentist is a dear and very old friend of mine. Every time I am in his office he tells whoever is assisting him an apocryphal tale that I once told him I wanted only a little novocaine so that I could feel things just a bit. I have no memory of such a conversation though I do remember asking the anesthesiologist during the third knee surgery I underwent to give me as little anesthetic as possible because I thought, following two other surgeries, that the anesthetic interrupted the all-important first few hours of healing.
I could be crazy, and that Doctor certainly thought I was, but I really believed that it would help. I took absolutely no medication after the third surgery and recovered very quickly but you never know if that was why. The intense thing about getting less anesthetic for my surgery is that I actually heard and felt (without pain) what they were actually doing in there. Whoa, that was crazy!
From the experiences I have with pain I can safely say that I don’t like it but I can definitely tolerate it. And every individual has a different relationship to pain based on many factors. While professional athletes trump mere mortals in many respects, the ability to withstand extraordinary pain truly sets them apart. Pain is not a thing unto itself but merely one of many signals our body uses to interpret stimulus and produce response. What you see in the athlete is someone who consciously overrides the warnings he/she is receiving.
The sum total of one’s life including joy, stress, trauma and fear as well as others create the environment for a relationship to pain that has a psychological aspect to it as well, especially for those suffering from chronic pain. Pain is a two-step process—the sensation or signal of the pain followed by the emotional factor of how we choose to deal with it. Chronic pain can become a problem because long term exposure to pain can change the way that both our brain and our emotions process pain.