Have you ever wondered why pain seems more intense at three in the morning than three in the afternoon?
Some reasons include skipped doses of pain medicine that you (hopefully) slept through, the absence of distractions, challenges getting comfortable and the normal daily variations in the body’s stress hormones that act as gatekeepers to decide which pain signal gets through to your conscious mind.
Here is what I believe to be the most important reason. Any pain is worse when you’re facing it alone. And at three in the morning it can feel like it’s just you and the pain.
If you like math, here’s the equation
Pain + Isolation = Suffering
Most people can tolerate high levels of pain; what is intolerable is being alone with the pain.
Pain is like the body’s fire alarm that says, “Stop. You’re in danger. Do something!” Two elements of the pain alarm system reside in different parts of the brain.
First, there’s the detector. No one likes a smoke alarm that blares every time you make toast. Your brain’s sophisticated network determines whether and when your conscious mind needs to know about the pain.
If there is danger, the brain activates the alarm in a primitive part of our brains called the cingulate cortex. This loud, annoying alarm is designed to wake you from sleep.
It turns out that the pain of social isolation sets off the alarm just as effectively as physical pain.
Further, the pain medication that treats physical pain also alleviates the pain of isolation.
We all have a thirst for human connection. It’s best managed like the thirst for water. Drink from the love cup during the day, then take a little sip at night as needed.
What do you think?