What is the Opposite of Pain?


Recently, over breakfast, I asked my partner, “Hey, what is the opposite of pain?”. After he shook off the tired morning stare across his face, he sighed and said Love. I nodded and continued eating my cereal while looking out the window.

There was a short pause before he interjected and said “So, what do you think is the opposite of pain?” Apparently, I wasn’t getting off that easily.

I’m never one without a quick reply, but as I started to open my mouth, I stopped.

Did I, the girl with a decade of experience living with pain, have any idea what I considered to be the opposite of pain?

I quickly realized that I didn’t know. Was I too close to the pain to see that there was anything beyond? To be fair, I had just undergone a surgery, but still, why did I draw a blank?

That got me thinking. Do any of us know what really is the opposite of pain? Is it different for everyone? So, I did what any person living in this information-hungry age would do: I took to social media.

I asked my social network one question: Can you tell me what the very first thing that comes to your mind is when I ask: What is the opposite of pain? 

{I adjusted my question to include “the very first thing that comes to your mind”, in an effort to inspire a more authentic response from my network.}

The response was immediate and honest. I heard from people I barely know and people I’ve known for decades. Work colleagues responded. Neighbors responded. Family and old college roommates. People who I would never think of replied with such candor and open-heartedness.

I realized that pain-- in my previous experiences--was what I considered to be, a barrier to connection. But instead in this case, pain became the catalyst to connect.

I understand that chronic pain may not be universal, but the ability to feel and remember pain is, although we don’t often want to discuss pain or painful experiences. It can cause us to disconnect and disassociate.

So, how do we feel about the opposite of pain?  The opposite of pain is accepted with wide, open arms. We know. Exactly. How. It. Feels.

We humans want to relish that. We crave it. We know it, intimately, no matter how we choose to define it.

My most heartfelt response came from a childhood friend:

To me the opposite of pain is being normal. Being able to plan my day without taking into consideration where my body is at or where it will soon be at. The opposite of pain is being able to do the things you love without discomfort, without fear of discomfort. The absolutely opposite of pain is going about a normal day and getting home and realizing pain actually did not creep into your head even once.

It struck me that this is what we are made of. This is what we are all capable of. It’s what wakes us up in the morning and gets us out of bed, despite the agony and enrage of the pain body. This is what makes us able to live, despite the painiac alongside you. This is what can help us thrive and not just survive.

The reason why I like this exercise is that, if only for a few moments, it shifts our attention to the other side of pain. It gave pain a companion instead of an adversary. It allows us to identify the reality of the opposite of pain, and invites us to find it within ourselves.

What if we spent more time in the tiny moments in life? It’s in those tiny moments where I believe the opposite of pain resides. What will happen if we listen to the opposite of pain? Can you imagine how that would make us feel if we spent more time leaning into the parts of us that are thriving? What would that look like?

So, dear reader, now it’s your turn.

What do think is the opposite of pain and where does it live within you?

Let me know in the comment section below. I encourage you to ask your friend, or other loved ones. Their answers may surprise you as much as your own will.