03rd July 2017

Sitting in the dentist’s chair I had time to think about pain, about perception of pain and fear of pain. I was not in pain. I was having my teeth hygiened, a process which is discomforting but generally without pain. Over the past few days I’ve had some sensitivity, and I mentioned this to the hygienist and she promised to be careful. I opened my mouth, closed my eyes and relaxed. She worked on my mouth. I forced myself to release the tension, the expectation of pain, a sharp, sudden shock, always on the edge of my mind. I wondered if the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself; it is hard to remember, pain is often so fleeting and transient, it is so long since I’ve experienced continuous pain. Pain, as opposed to discomfort. Discomfort is common: an aching shoulder, a sore back, legs burning after exercise. But discomfort and pain are something different, as distinct as pleasure and comfort though there is an overlap between both. I think about the pain of a nerve triggered, the sensation like sucking on a sour sweet, indescribable, at once sharp, tender, a silent scream in the mind, the body tenses with the shock, the mind consumed by sensation of it. There is an edge of desire to it, the desire to experience an all-consuming sensation, even an unpleasant one. But the desire, too, is fleeting. Pleasure, too, can be too much. True pleasure is overwhelming. The hygienist scraped away, pushing here, picking there. I stopped thinking, allowing myself to feel every bit of it.

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