In a new study, undertaken by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Pain, researchers found that certain test subjects dealt more effectively with pain than others. The reason: brain wiring. Some people, it seems, are “mind-wanderers,” whose thoughts can more effectively “wander” from the experience of pain.
“Mind-wanderers” aren’t necessarily daydreamers. They are simply more successful at turning away from, rather than focusing on, pain. The study is being called “preliminary science,” but researchers hope it will help steer the pain management conversation away from a one-size-fits-all approach, to treatment that is more personalized.
Any study that leads us closer to dealing more effectively with pain – and to eliminating it entirely – is encouraging. Even more so is the focus of these neuroscientists’ investigation: thought.
Mary Baker Eddy, the author of the groundbreaking book on the connection between thought and health, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” discovered something similar about pain: That pain could be not just managed, but actually eliminated, by thought. But she took this idea one step further: That pain itself was thought.
She wrote: “You say a boil is painful; but that is impossible, for matter without mind is not painful. The boil simply manifests, through inflammation and swelling, a belief in pain, and this belief is called a boil. Now administer mentally to your patient a high attenuation of truth, and it will soon cure the boil. The fact that pain cannot exist where there is no mortal mind to feel it is a proof that this so-called mind makes its own pain – that is, its own belief in pain” (Science and Health, p. 153).
What’s empowering about Mrs. Eddy’s discovery is that understanding pain as a belief, rather than a physical condition, opens us up to the idea that pain is not intractable, solid, and all-powerful. Quite the opposite. Pain is nothing more than a belief – a fleeting thought, a misconception, that can be eliminated from consciousness, and thus, from the body.
I discovered this for myself a few years ago when a large portion of my body became covered with an extremely painful skin condition. Since I’d had many other healings through prayer, it was natural for me to approach this situation prayerfully, too. And as I turned to God over several weeks, one idea resonated deeply: that I was God-created, so I had the authority and strength from God to say no to the thoughts of fear and despair that seemed so overwhelming.
As I did this, the terror associated with the enormity of the condition began to subside. But I was still in a lot of discomfort.
I continued to pray, though, and one day, a new idea occurred to me. From studying Science and Health and the Bible, I knew that God, being Spirit, had created me spiritually. So I had to ask myself: How could I, as a spiritual idea conceived by an all-good Creator, ever experience pain? The pain must be nothing more than a belief, as Eddy explained in Science and Health. I realized this meant that I could say no to the thoughts of pain, just as I had said no to fear and despair.
This was more than some mind-over-matter exercise. I know it was, because the pain was, at times, so intense, that I couldn’t have mustered up the strength to say “no” to it on my own. But as I felt the Christ, the saving power of Love, lifting me up, I felt supported in this protest. Slowly but surely, I found my thoughts turning from the aggressive suggestions of pain and, instead, embracing the reality of God’s love and care for me. Shortly thereafter, the pain left. Soon, I was completely healed.
From my own experiences with healing pain, I’ve come to love this passage from Galatians, which feels like a benediction for our efforts toward eliminating pain, permanently: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
To me that’s a promise that we all have a right to be free from pain. God made us to be free. He didn’t create some of us with a mind that’s specially wired to “wander” from pain, and others who are destined to live in the bondage of unrelenting discomfort. Our God is so good that He created each of us with the authority to stand up to the belief of pain, thereby destroying it. And He gave us a Savior – the Christ, that saving power of Love – to hold us up as we do.