Pain as Pleasure? Hedonism Reconsidered

I’ve never been afraid of physical pain and have willingly signed on for numerous activities and jobs where pain is commonly expected. Growing up I was a dancer, gymnast, runner, and basketball player; aside from shin splints from running and a broken nose mid-basketball game (still got the three-point shot before they pulled me from the court though! Bam!) these activities didn’t involve much pain. In dance and gymnastics however, pain is a daily occurrence and often associated with success in these art forms.

Heart-Shaped Bruises
My bruises love me as much as I love them!

As an adult working in a children’s gym teaching and coaching dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading, pain again became a part of my daily life. Bruises from spotting gymnasts on the uneven bars, fractured wrists from spotting back handsprings and tucks gone wrong, a broken nose from getting kicked in the face by a new flyer falling from a full lib, muscle pain and dislocation of my knees in order to demonstrate proper form in a split, the list goes on and on. I also have to mention that while I was routinely injured, not a single child I worked with ever experienced an injury under my supervision. I used to come home from work every day with a new injury, but I wore them with pride because I absolutely loved my job and not even 2 fractured wrists could stop me from working.

I have to disagree with the hedonistic philosophy that physical pain is worse than mental pain (and therefore physical pleasure is better than mental pleasure) (Janaro & Altshuler, 2012); I would much rather be in physical pain than mental anguish any day. Physical pain can be controlled: mind over matter; but, mental pain is much harder to command and can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can circle back around to cause physical pain, creating a paradox in the hedonistic view of pain and happiness.

Janaro, R. and Altshuler, T.. (2012).  The Art of Being Human.  New York, NY: Pearson Education Inc.

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