There was a fascinating study on the drug acetaminophen, which is the primary ingredient in the over the counter pain relievers.
Psychologists found that it not only reduced the people’s physical pain, but also reduced their ability to feel positive emotions. Rather than just being a pain reliever, the doctor explained, acetaminophen could be see as an all purpose emotion reliever. Because people who took it didn’t feel the same highs or lows as did the people who took placebos. And most of them probably weren’t aware of how their emotions might have be impacted.
Does this suggest taking pain relievers is a bad idea? Not at all. Tylenol is a beautiful thing. Sometimes you come home from work with a splitting headache and need to pop a few pills to make it through the day. It happens to everybody.
And so, the real lesson has broader implications. This study is a reminder that if we attempt to live in a way where we limit our pain, we also limit our chances for joy. Both are essential components of the human experience. To have one without the other would rob ourselves of the necessary perspective and insight and growth that can only come from the absurd roller coaster that we call life.
Rilke famously said, if my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.
Which doesn’t suggest he always abstained from pain relievers, but it does demonstrate his willingness to subject himself to both the joys and pains of daily existence.
Let our hearts not be conveniently scrubbed and disinfected from the ups and downs of being a human.
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What meaningful baby might you be throwing out with the emotional bathwater?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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