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Painful Limits

March 12, 2019

It’s been a little painful,
And I hope I don’t like pain,
’cause I’d hate to think of myself like that
– Don McLean “It’s A Beautiful Life”

I guess we’re going to spend one more day talking about therapy. We’ll get back to the IT/Camping/Training issues next week.

I’m about to start on EMDR therapy. It’s EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION ADN REPROCESSING. Like many therapy techniques it requires facing some unpleasant issues from my past. Many of them have to do with work. (My Manager From Hell.) Some have to do with other life events.

Until we get into revisiting the events, I won’t know how traumatic they end up being. In order to make sure I don’t get too traumatized, we need to find a mental/emotional “safe” place. A place where I can retreat to if the therapy gets too intense, if I hit my emotional pain threshold.

It made me think. Physical pain and emotional pain are very interconnected for me. I tried to imagine a situation where that might happen, where I might hit my emotional pain threshold.

We are all the hero of our own story. By that I mean that when we imagine ourselves in stressful situation, we also imagine ourselves performing heroically. We save the ship, kill the bad guy and rescue the princess.

But, most of us never find ourselves piloting a ship in a hurricane, or fighting a death match, or on a quest to some far off land. We have no way of knowing how we would react. For example, I think we would all like to believe if we were on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, that we too would join with our fellow passengers and storm the cockpit.

But, until we find ourselves tested in that situation, we can’t actually know.

I don’t think I’ll reach my emotional pain threshold during therapy. I’ve only ever reached it one time. It was when I thought one of my children had died and I found out he had not. But, despite a PTSD reaction to blood, I attended the birth of my three birth children. I find myself running toward the things that go bump in the night.

I’m going to cut away the wart tissue on your toe. It doesn’t have any pain sensors in it. But, when I get to the good tissue, you’ll feel it. And then I’ll use liquid nitrogen to burn away the last of the wart tissue. That will hurt a lot.


I’m going to continue burning into the good tissue to make sure we get all the wart tissue. Stop me when it gets too painful.

That was nearly twenty years ago. I still remember lying on the exam table, the doctor with his back to me. The wart was right at the point where the cuticle meets the nail. The doctor was correct. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt.

And then he hit it with the liqued nitrogen again and it hurt even worse.

I thought about asking him to stop. But, killing a wart is a multi-step project. If I quit now it would just take longer next time. He kept going.

Eventually, he stopped, of course. I think he was afraid of going on. I was definitely hurting. I put my sock and shoe back on and limped back out to my car. I sat down, started the car, turned the heater up, leaned my seat back and promptly went into shock.

I knew it was coming on. I prepared for it. But, I still didn’t stop the doctor. I’m sure I have a pain threshold. But, it’s higher than having my big toe burned with liquid nitrogen.

I wonder if my emotional pain threshold will be equally hard to reach.

If not, at least I’ll have that emotinoal happy place.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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