This might seem like a silly question,  but pain is a complicated thing. We have all experienced pain, both physical and emotional. Sometimes emotional pain is even experienced as physical pain – have you ever felt your throat become tight because of frustration, or had stomach cramps or nausea because of fear? These are very common feelings. In English we even use the same word, “feel”, for both physical experiences (“The blanket feels soft”) and emotional experiences (“I feel sad”).

Physical pain and emotional pain can cause each other. If you have an unexplained pain in your body, it might cause you to feel fear or worry. Similarly, if you are having a lot of stress or sadness in your life, this can often cause pain in your body, very often as headaches, back, or abdominal (stomach) pain. Being aware of this connection can actually help to reduce both emotional and physical pain in some cases.

We avoid pain because it can cause a lot of suffering. If you think about it, pain and suffering are not the same thing, though they often go together. Pain is the physical sensation, and suffering is the emotional reaction to the sensation. Pain serves a purpose: if you break a bone in your foot, pain tells you to stop walking on it so that the bone can heal. The purpose of suffering is sometimes less clear, but you can think of your emotional reaction to pain as a reminder to take care of yourself and reach out to others for support. We are not meant to suffer alone.