The pleasure of pain

One of my favorite paper for the writing course Fall 2011

Anh Nguyen

ENG 107


7th November 2011

Professor Matto




“Why is grandma still sleeping, mommy ? She hasn’t talked to me since yesterday.”

“She’s still dreaming, a long long beautiful dream … dear. She is fine“, said my mother, choking back tears. It’s been ten years since that day and tears still fall down. The grieving process does take a while but I couldn’t have imagined that it could take this long.  In my dream, my grandma’s smile and voice keeps lingering; on my bed every night, her last gift – the little worn teddy bear- sits right on my pillow; on my desk everyday, there’s picture of her, looking at me and smiling mildly. I keep everything that reminds me of my grandmother and when I see them, I just start missing and grieving, sometimes mourning silently, sometimes weeping aloud but whatever way I miss her, pain is always there and killing me within.

Memories are just too beautiful to heal any sorrow or fill any empty spaces of someone when they are no longer there with you. Holding on to those memories keeps me from forgetting, denying, or neglecting any dearest images and remembering them cause my wound to itch. However, I still want to keep the habit of saying goodbye to my worn teddy dear every morning, gazing at my grandmother’s photo and praying for her every night. The utmost purpose is simply to make me feel pain that I have myself indulged in. 

I love the feeling of nostalgia, of living in the past, the time when I could smile, play, enjoy my happy childhood with Grandma with no worries, begging for her unconditioned love without having to pay back anything. And it tortures me when suddenly I realize that I could no longer have someone to buy me a balloon or a box of candies without having their judgment over my choice and maturity. Craving for what has already gone is painfully implausible. Images keep accumulating, smoldering, haunting my mind and when the bone-chilling weather comes, my own sensitive soul have been vulnerable enough to burst out into tears. Those tears of deep pain, I consider it as a precious gift.

Back to the moment I asked my mother why grandma hadn’t waken up, I was so innocent and naive that I truly believed my grandma was sleeping, wondering why mom was crying. Years after, I found my mom shedding tears alone, even if she’d just had a good time cooking and talking joyfully with the family several minutes before. “I was just thinking about your grandma and I’m just glad that she could see our happy family from Heaven right now”. I used to find that response from Mom insane and couldn’t understand why she cried when she was happy. Getting older, I later on discovered the pleasure that Mom found in tears that day. Like people who usually cry when they’re extremely happy, smile when they have a hard broken heart. Insanity does have its meaning, like pain does have its own special kind of pleasure, full of paradoxes within, being spurious yet logical, insane yet subtle, foolish yet deep.

Insanity makes its logical point in the case of people’s ritual or religious practice of physical mutilation, self-inflicted pain, seeking out repentance, etc. Neither these people are invulnerable to pain nor do they find pain merely enjoyable, they seek for pain as a higher pleasu re, such as pride and honour. The practice of self-infliction within religious context is to value life and its continuity by “serving” their holy gods with the deepest respect of human nature by exposing themselves to pain. Clearly stated in the book “Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary“ written by David Wulff, the professor of psychology at Wheaton College, is the notion that finding pleasure within pain does make sense, biologically. “Feeling a sensation of pain, the body reacts by secreting a pain-relieving chemical that can also induce feelings of euphoria. Research shows that during periods of prolonged physical activity (including pain) within humans, there is a physiological response of an increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, reduction of stress hormones and release of these endorphins. Together these can create an altered state of conscious and a temporary ‘high’ “(Wulff)

Interestingly, emotional pain is nothing different from physical pain since the brain doesn’t differentiate them. Reported in the Los Angeles Times on March 29th, 2011, was the fact that physical pain and heartache are the same thing according to the brain. “Researchers from the University of Michigan, Columbia University and the University of Colorado put 40 individuals who were brokenhearted by a recent breakup into a brain scanner and watched as each dumpee gazed upon a photo of his or her dumper and pondered the hurt he or she felt at having been spurned. In separate scanning sessions, the subjects had the laboratory equivalent of a hot poker held to the forearm (an 8 on a 10-point pain scale). The functional magnetic resonance imaging scanned the subjects and showed their brains responding both to emotional hurt and physical pain with increased blood flow to a wide range of common regions — a clear sign of “neural overlap” in the way we process and experience social and physical pain.” Therefore, whether it’s emotional or physical pain, pleasure is biologically fostered in the same way.

My tendency towards remembering times that have caused me pain is actually a ritual practice that leads me to respect what I have now and embrace what I’ve deserved. The painful practice of reliving painful memories is simply a ritual part of every human’s soul as a way of  deepening their living style, being able to stay appreciative of the present, and remaining grateful to the past and hopeful for the future. All the grievances for my grandmother, I will make them last forever within my heart and my mind. I don’t want my unforgettable memories to be faded, beautiful dreams to be lonely without anyone to “talk” to and have a meaningless life to be tasted without pain as a holy pleasure



Olivia, Peace & The Olive Tree |

2 thoughts on “The pleasure of pain

  1. This entry makes me miss my grandma badly. I have ever felt there is a empty part in my heart and it seems that nothing can heal it when my grandma passed away.
    It is alright that the past is sometimes so beautiful that I do not want to live at the moment, I want to live in the past forever :((
    Thanks for sharing your emotions!


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