Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is pain just an emotion?

  1. Dec 8, 2008 #1
    Is pain just an emotion?

    I understand that pain is brought about by such things like nerve endings sending signals to the brain in an effort to notify us of danger, much like the hand on the oven burner. Hey… it’s hot, might want to move your hand away from the fire.
    But the brain confuses dangerous pain (permanently harming the body) with necessary pain (vaccine shots).
    You can control pain in much the same way as you can control an emotion. Such as an emotional person cries during a sad movie and a construction worker does not.
    You can control your reaction to physical pain by expecting it. If you know someone is going to be sticking a needle in your arm you can prepare for the pain and stunt the brains natural reaction to move away from it.
    This to me seems no different than controlling an emotion.

    Sorry, just rambling today. This constantly pops into my head.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2008 #2
    It's possible. I mean, you can, most of the time, look at someone and tell if they're angry, upset, or sad (emotions). And most of the time, you can look at someone and pretty much see the pain on their face. So, yeah, I guess it's an emotion.

    Does this make sense?
  4. Dec 8, 2008 #3
    Visually identifying someone who is in pain should be fairly easy I suppose.

    But on the other hand... if someone doesn't want you to know they are sad... can't they just hold back the tears and/or fake happiness to hide their sadness?

    Why can we not do the same thing with pain? Is it just a more dominant emotion than all of the rest, much harder to disguise?
  5. Dec 8, 2008 #4
    Pain is an obssessive compelling emotion. But the biggest question is - what constitutes an emotion? A short pulse of electricity in a "body" that's otherwise made of quadrillion of opposite electrical charges? The prospect of us ever finding out the full picture of what causes the perception of physical/objective reality looks quite hopeless. You cannot but be amazed at the level of complexity of a human being, or even of a Neanderthal. Even 300 000 years ago they possessed bodies composed of more than 100 trillion cells(a human body is composed of 100 trillion), running altogether more than a quadrillion operations per second in full sync(metabolism, cell repair, cell division, oxygen transfusion, etc). It's frightening to what lengths nature/god has to go to produce this assumed to be meaningless and pointless perception of life/existence. It's hard to say which is true - that the complexity is too great or if we are still too dumb, descending from dumb creatures that hanged for hours from the branches of trees in Africa. But if they had more intelligence to understand what was going on, instead of just relying on their innate survival instincts, they wouldn't put up with their quite miserable painful lives and would commit a mass suicide.(i expect scores of folks to jump on me and explain how their brains were wired differently to find enjoyment in their way of life, regardless how miserable it was).

    I can't find the author of the quote, but it was related to the question if we can know everything, and it was to the effect of:

    "We can't find all the answers about the system while we are a part of it." (Heisenberg?)
  6. Dec 8, 2008 #5
    Nicely said Wave.

    What I'm curious about is the desire to enjoy the feeling of pain, much like someone might enjoy a good cry every once in awhile. If it's nothing more than an emotion... it would seem to be possible.

    Or would society be against that? =)
  7. Dec 8, 2008 #6
    Is flatulence an emotion? If so, I'm telepathic.
  8. Dec 8, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes it is, and I'm skilled in remote viewing (smelling). Stay away until you cut back on the beans and cabbage.
  9. Dec 8, 2008 #8
    Yes. I've seen and met Marines that actually entice you because they enjoy the feeling of pain. But, then again, they've all got a few loose wires because of the war. But, whatever floats your boat.....
  10. Dec 9, 2008 #9
    <-- Marine :)

    I think you bringing that up reminded me of some of the training back in the early days and how adrenaline can effect your perception of pain.
  11. Dec 9, 2008 #10
    No problem. Care to share? Maybe the answers locked inside your training. After all I've seen drill seargeants wearing shirts that say "pain is weakness leaving the body"
  12. Dec 9, 2008 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This reaction doesn't actually take place in the brain though, but rather somewhere in your spinal cord
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook