Athena Staik writes, “Romanticized love defines love in a way that puts each person’s fulfillment in the hands of the other. (It) sets up unrealistic, and often dehumanizing, expectations that seem a setup for failure.” As in love, society both describes, and deals with, pain in a manner that is nothing short of unrealistic. While inaccurately depicting pain as the manifestation of some predictable physical malady, society encourages individuals to seek care from “professionals”, to extricate from the physical body an experience that resides exclusively in the mind.
As is true with love, pain does not respond to physical coercion. Nor does it conform to societal norms or conventional expectations. When external efforts to affect one’s life are unsuccessful, the individual is often left desperately asking themselves self-destructive questions: What is wrong with me? Is it all in my head? Am I crazy? How can I live with this “thing”?
These questions only obfuscate, misguided by a false premise. Pain is not a “thing” (noun), but rather, as Diane Jacobs, PT wrote, “a verb that impersonates a noun… a simulation the brain is running, a simulation that has gone wrong…a verb whose timing is off.” Likewise, according to Staik, “Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity.” Surely, in light of this perspective, a more productive question might be, “How empowering would it be to gain a better understanding of how/why I feel the way I do?”
Love and pain have a lot in common. A consequence of a series of variables residing beyond our control and consciousness, each providing us with an independent experience, exclusively unique to the individual. Even when we don’t understand them, for better or worse, they are ours alone. Unfortunately, romanticism can set us upon a self-destructive path with only a single, necessarily unromantic destination where we unjustifiably surrender ourselves to another, relying on them exclusively for our happiness and health.