How High is Your Pain Tolerance When It Comes to Stress?

17 Nov 2009, by michelle in Featured, personal development, self-care, Stress

Did you ever play those games when you were a kid to see how far you could bend back your fingers without giving up in pain?  How about allowing a relative or friend to keep hitting you harder and harder to see how long you could take it without giving up?  In both of these cases, the more pain you could tolerate, the stronger you were viewed.  I am sure at one point or another you gave it a try in order to avoid being called a wimp.

These silly games you play as a kid imprints a lasting message in your psyche.  The message is you are somehow better if you are tough and learn to “suck up” the pain or discomfort that you are feeling.   This message has been reiterated by adults as well because of the belief that you need to be able tolerate pain because life is not always fair.

The unfortunate outcome is that you learn how to tolerate your pain too well.  The result is suffering with your careers, your relationships and/or your sense of self due to your great tolerance of pain.  You have learned loud and clear that you are better off sucking it up.  You pull yourself up by the boot straps and try to move forward all the while ignoring the pain the best you can. 

What you don’t think about is how this will impact you in the long-term because you have been trained not to.  There is this pain reliever/aspirin commercial that demonstrates this so well.  The storyline is that this man suffers from pains that hold him back from accomplishing what he wants.  Presto — when he takes his pain reliever, we see him strong, being able to climb any mountain and accomplish his dream.   The message is that here is an easy way to cover up your pain that allows you to achieve all that you desire.  What I am thinking is this poor guy – he thinks he is being so strong by pushing himself past his limits and he is going to wake up to some major pain possibly even hurting himself physically to the point where it is beyond repair.  This commercial reiterates what you have all been taught to believe, which is if you toughen up and cover up your pain, you will then be able to get what you want.  This may work for the short-term but in the long run you end up hurting yourself even more. 


By ignoring your pain there is another part deep down within you that believes in the message of the pain rather than hearing the truth.  The truth is that your emotions want to share with you how to alleviate the pain for good.   Rather than hear this message, you are too focused on putting your best self forward all the while ignoring the hurt you feel.  What this actually does is keep you stuck and that is the sad part because it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are few people who are born without having the sensitivity to pain in their bodies. Their inability to feel the pain puts them in great danger and they end up getting hurt often.  Others have to keep a close watch on them because they do not register the signals that tell them what is taxing or hurting them.

I believe our society as a whole is suffering because we have tampered with the amazing gift of our emotional sensitivity.  Rather than picking up on the emotional signals that tell you when something is not good, you tolerate what isn’t good for you.  Worse yet is how you tell yourself to get over it, move on, think positively or be the better person and rise above it.  The reality is that you are just telling yourself that you are not sick of these circumstances enough to make a change.  In other words, you are telling your pain to bring on some more because you can and will take more pain. 

Once you have reached the point where you are so tired of the pain and so exhausted from fighting, only then will change occur.  The gift is that your pain doesn’t have to reach that point in order for you to take action.  So what is it going to be for you — a high pain tolerance or a low pain tolerance? 

My hope is that you will join me in having a low pain tolerance.  With a low pain tolerance you will recognize your sadness, anger or frustration more often.  The difference is that you will see this as a gift that will help you to live your life even better.  Trust me, it is not the emotions that are so painful rather it is the truth that you are trying to deny.  But remember the truth will always set you free.  Doesn’t living freely sound better than living chained to the pain?

Live Authentically – Live Exceptionally Well,


  • Michelle,

    I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself. I think you must have been in my head the last few years hearing me tell myself “don’t say anything – it will just make you look weak.” My pain has become intolerable at times and there are few people that understand what I live with most days. It is very isolating to know that there aren’t many people I can share this with and know – truly know – that there will be no judgements.

    Having said that, and having gone to various Dr.’s to have no success in finding any “real” diagnosis – what do you suggest I try next??


    Patty Hugi

    • Hi Patty,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Two things come to mind for suggestions. One is listen to what your inner voice is telling you is really going on. Even if convential medicine dismissed your viewpoint, it is worth continuing to look into what your gut is telling you. Second, try alternative therapies. You never know what information and healing can be gained through non-traditional approaches. Wishing you well! Michelle

  • Hi Michelle – Great article! Interesting to think about pain tolerance. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Suzanne – so glad you liked it. Stay in touch! Michelle