‘Like thermometers, our bodies and minds detect pain in relation to the effect the environment produces on us. The degree to which pain is perceived represents in most cases our adaptation to new circumstances. The more pain we feel the less adapted we are, and vice versa. Our bodies use the sensation of pain as a learning tool, placing our experience in perspective, and signaling to our brains, how close we are to getting hurt or how far we are from safety. Over time, we could become unable to feel pain because our bodies could lose the ability to detect it, or because our minds don’t think that the present situation represents any danger, or because there is a disconnect in the transmission of information between both of them.

In a bullfight we could see that the matador uses pain, first to subjugate the bull, diminishing its strength, and secondly to kill it. The bull always uses pain to eliminate the matador. With the exception of inflicting pain on ourselves, generally we either exert it on our environment, or we receive it from our environment, but in the majority of cases, pain is the result of an action, not the sole intent. A bullfight cannot be cruel because the intent is not to see the animal suffering. The objective, as shocking as it sounds, is to kill the bull in a specific manner.

Our minds can also feel pain. For example, a soldier returning from war could feel very ill, even though his body didn’t received any injuries while fighting. The collection of thoughts that we posses could, in some situations, inflict pain in our bodies. Why?, we may ask since thoughts are not made of a physical matter. Or are they? What do we have our brains for, to process air?

Albert Einstein realized in the last century that matter and energy are really different forms of the same thing. Matter can be turned into energy and energy into matter. Einstein’s formula “E=mc2(square)” states that the amount of energy a mass would produce if we could transform it into energy itself, would be equivalent to multiplying the mass, by the square of the speed of light. Consequently, if we could isolate in a laboratory experiment the energy released by a thought between two points, we would be able to find its mass. It comes to my mind, that often in the middle ages people felt “sick with love” believing that the image of their lover would physically pass through the pupils of their eyes into their hearts, or their minds for that matter.

Not everyone feels the same pain. Different individuals can feel pain in different ways. It all depends on our previous experiences. For example, if ten individuals watch one oak tree, there is a pretty good chance that after their brains process the information, the tree will turn into ten different trees. Each individual will process the image according to their own perception and experience based on the knowledge acquired in the past. In other words, each individual will use a unique ladder, or combination of ladders, to reach the platform where the oak tree is placed in their minds, and the course of their actions will result in a slightly different tree with peculiar characteristics. Our social skills should determine the accuracy of our receptive imagination to produce a general idea about what an oak tree should look like.

Physical pain is probably the least understood sensation in our current societies. For all of time, Man has had to survive with what may seem to us as a tremendous amount of pain on his body. For individuals in the past, many of the injuries that people suffer today would seem trivial, almost insignificant. Pain was a daily remainder of their fight against Nature. Our giant communities have managed, thanks to the progression of our knowledge, to insulate us from pain as much as possible thus sometimes pain can come in an instant. Driving a car is a good example, the technology that we have achieved allow us to travel at very high speeds, while our senses aren’t exposed to exterior conditions. In case of an accident, pain could show its face in an instant.

Nevertheless, our world is not exempt from pain, particularly mental pain. The singular characteristics of our world demand from the individuals specific behaviors that often produce dissatisfaction and discontent, like going up and down the ladder of knowledge without apparent results. Many individuals use pain to achieve a certain level of satisfaction, running a marathon, or tattooing themselves in absence of a clear purpose. Probably as a reminder of a not too distant past when our bodies received pain without asking for it. For some, pain and suffering may be the objective, unconsciously reflecting cruelty to themselves in order to achieve some degree of gratification. For other persons, pain and suffering could be the only characterization of their cruel circumstances.

Pain has another important significance in our lives, it reveals our current learning situation. Being conscientious of our pain enables us to back up our actions, looking for a different way out of our troubles. Or on the contrary, it also enables our minds to recognize that sometimes suffering is the only solution; that we are making a sacrifice to achieve a higher ending and consequently, we are willing to pay the price accepting our limitations. Pain make us responsible for our actions’