“Altered Traits”: PAIN IS IN THE BRAIN

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If you give the back of your hand a hard pinch, different brain systems mobilize, some for the pure sensation of pain and others for our dislike of that pain.

 

The brain unifies them into a visceral, instant Ouch!

 

But that unity falls apart when we practice mindfulness of the body, spending hours noticing our bodily sensations in great detail.

 

 

As we sustain this focus, our awareness morphs.

 

 

What had been a painful pinch transforms, breaking down into its constituents: the intensity of the pinch and the painful sensation, and the emotional feeling tone—we don’t want the pain; we urgently want the pain to stop.

 

 

But if we persevere with mindful investigation, that pinch becomes an experience to unpack with interest, even equanimity.

 

 

We can see our aversion fall away, and the “pain” break down into subtler flavors: throbbing, heat, intensity.
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