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March 6, 2017 / Congau

Good Pain?

Suffering in itself is always bad. The only thing that can justify inflicting pain on others or on oneself is to avoid a greater pain or to obtain some good. Of course we often accept suffering and should do so when there is a benefit (a pleasure) to be gained. We accept the suffering of hard work to obtain a reward etc.

But when there is nothing to be achieved, suffering should absolutely be shunned.

However, there seem to be people who seek suffering for its own sake. Masochists want pain, don’t they? They do, but they want it because they enjoy it, and whatever a person enjoys, is according to the definition, a pleasure. True, the pain remains painful and the masochist wants it to be painful, so it may not be right to say that the pain becomes a pleasure. But the totality, the whole experience or the more complex feeling, becomes a pleasure. The pain in itself is still painful, but in the immediate context it is a pleasure. It’s actually the same as when we in normal circumstances accept pain to gain a reward, the only difference is that for the masochist pleasure is an instant or simultaneous consequence of the pain. The pain cannot be separated from the pleasure, but the two are still conceptually separable.

Other forms of self-inflicting suffering contain the same duplicity. A person may inflict pain on himself as a deserved punishment. Then the pain itself doesn’t become pleasurable, but the feeling of just punishment is pleasing and it is appreciated at the very same moment as the pain occurs. Conceptually the pain causes the pleasure even though they are the same thing.

If someone wants to suffer to really feel alive or connected to the world, they also use the suffering to gain another instant reward. Then the suffering also has a consequence that is different from suffering in itself. When there is no reward, suffering remains bad.

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