Remember the Motivational Triad from The Pleasure Trap? Drs Lisle and Goldhamer tell us that this is our instinctual feedback system, the driving force behind every choice we make. In their amazing book they explore the ‘pleasures’ of sugar, salt and other addictions and are beginning to redefine what we consider ‘harmful consequences’ to our health and wellness. Let's take a look at the second part of the triad – the avoidance of pain.
We feel pain. We learn what causes pain. We avoid further pain. This process is instinctual and one we begin to utilize the moment we are born into this world. As children we understand the clear connections between behaviors and painful consequences.
We learn quickly that touching a hot stove burns our skin and avoiding that pain becomes ‘seared’ into our brains. (pun fully intended)
Knowledge – hot stove-tops burn the skin
Wisdom – stop touching hot stove-tops
We also learn at a very young age that gorging on all of our Halloween candy causes cramping pains in our tummies, makes us hyperactive and nervous and eventually leaves us feeling exhausted and even depressed.
Knowledge – gorging on sugary sweets causes the body to feel pain and illness
Wisdom – stop gorging on sugary sweets
So why do many of us miss that Wisdom portion of the sugary sweets? That ice-cream ‘treat’ that sends us to the toilet with cramps and diarrhea? That cheesy burger with cured bacon that causes our intestines to cramp and bloat? That beer that leaves behind pain in the head, a throbbing we can feel in our eyes?
You guessed, it! Pleasure traps – addictions to pleasures which we enjoy compulsively regardless of the harmful consequences with which we are all too familiar. We accept the pain in order to get the pleasure. We 'learn to live with it' as if we have no choice in the matter. We choose to live in pain.
Or do we? In our modern world, we no longer need to accept the pain and we more often than not choose to numb the pain in order to keep getting the pleasures. But at what cost? After all, why are we in pain in the first place? Is it in our best interest to silence the signals our bodies are sending?
In The Pleasure Trap, we learn that “Pain is the nervous system’s way of telling us that something is wrong with our body.” (Page 25) and that our body’s pain signals are often specific in order that we correctly understand their origin as well as how to avoid it in the future. Pain is our body’s way of redirecting us from harmful behaviors and choices towards more optimally healthy ones. Just as waves of serotonin ‘happiness’ guide us in a positive direction, our waves of pain ‘ouchiness’ guide us away from our more deleterious choices.
So how do modern, enlightened humans approach pain? Not instinctually!
Headache? Take an aspirin.
Diarrhea? Take a 'blocker'
No Bowel Movement? Take a laxative.
Stomach Acid Reflux? Take an antacid. High Cholesterol? Take a statin.
Diabetes? Hypertension? IBS? There are so many options from which to choose! So many ways in which to silence the pain and forget about the problem. By silencing the body’s natural warning system and removing the pain, the use of drugs allows for detrimental, often lethal, behaviors to continue.
There is only one option which will remove that pain permanently. Stopping the behavior which causes the pain. In our Modified Fasting Programs, participants experience what we call ‘healing crises’ as their bodies expel toxins during our cleanse.
These are moments of great healing taking place in the body and if we choose to silence them, mitigate their efficacy or block them completely we interfere with the body’s natural cleansing and healing processes. And truth be known, we are only silencing the pain, not the cause.
Make no mistake about it, the dis-ease inside the body has not been silenced, mitigated or blocked. Quite the opposite. Dis-ease can run wild in a body that is longer receiving the requisite danger signals to address the problem. The medicated body moves blissfully through life’s choices, blissfully unaware that things are going terribly wrong under the surface.
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the more common ‘healing crises’ which we all experience – whether fasting or not! – and perhaps adjust our perspectives a bit about their value and place in our lives.
“Our body creates the fever in order to make life unpleasant for some micro-predator that is trying to eat us alive.” (Page 32)
When we practice fasting and focused nutrition our bodies may present with a fever as it experiences a detoxifying episode – a healing crisis. A natural approach to fever is to drink plenty of fluids, reduce caloric intake and allow the fever to break spontaneously as the body completes the healing crisis and the toxins have been removed.
A modern approach to fever is to take drugs which suppress the body’s presentation of fever but doing nothing to address the underlying cause – the toxins. They are allowed to roam freely throughout the body, undisturbed with their own personal body guards keeping the immune system from getting anywhere near them.
Another great toxin mover (and remover!) is our Gastrointestinal Tract – our bowels in particular! As the majority of our immunity comes from our gut, disturbances there are a key indicator that something somewhere in the body is not well.
And our GIT expresses itself in a variety of ways – each progressively more painful and more dangerous if ignored. And boy do we like to ignore them! We take drugs to increase motility, decrease bloating, increase malleability, decrease velocity all the while not realizing that by medicating our GIT in order to block, speed up or alter in any way our natural movements we are denying our bodies the ability to cleanse, heal and purge itself of what ails it. And the end result is never healthy.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of dis-ease in the body is inflammation. Most times it is our first sign that something is off balance within the body.
We use other words for inflammation as well, depending on the body part affected. Words like bloated, swollen, watery, puffy and sometimes even tight. Inflammation is the body’s presentation of the reality that there are white blood cells on the scene – a lot of them and they are busy with the work of healing. They are not to be disturbed as their work is vital is extracting toxins, protecting the body’s vital structures and rebuilding areas that have been damaged.
We do not care. We have no respect for their almighty work. We swallow anti-inflammatories and pain pills, and then skip away as if we no longer have a care in the world. As if we are no longer inflamed. Our pain may be gone but the cause remains. Without the pain we continue on exacerbating the underlying issue without ever realizing the damage being inflicted within.
All in all, our pain exists for a reason. It is not to be ignored. When we listen to our pain, we allow ourselves an opportunity to heal – to identify and remove the cause. When we run away in denial, we allow our bodies to be destroyed from within – one cell at a time.
If we would only reacquaint ourselves with our pain, we may one day be able to seek out our true pleasure – a long, healthy and dynamic life.
Knowledge – pain is a natural signal to change/stop a behavior
Wisdom – feel pain and learn its cause so that it can be removed
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Note: this post was originally posted in 2022