You’ve probably heard the terms “good pain” and “bad pain” before. But what exactly are people talking about when they pick one over the other when they describe an experience?
Professional athletes love pain. It’s not that they’re masochistic (although some probably are), it’s that they understand what pain is.
The truth is everyone is going to have a different answer to that question. That being said, a basic framework for how the decision of which descriptor of pain to use can be illustrated as a sort of umbrella concept.
Suppose you’re at the gym. You push past your last lift record even when it hurts. But when you put the weight down, the pain slowly starts to fade, endorphins surge and you exhale – “that’s good pain”.
Now let’s take the same scenario. You push again, but this time something doesn’t feel right. Maybe a sudden sprain or muscle spasm that isn’t so forgiving about fading once the lift is complete – “that’s bad pain”.
The framework is our gut feeling, combined with thoughtful practice over time. Once you know what kind of a pain to expect and how the aftermath plays out, you build an understanding of good pain vs bad pain.
One last example is a personal one. I’ve recently taken up beatbox.
Nobody warns you about beatbox with the pain of getting used to sitting on the damn thing.
For the past several days I’ve taken to using it as my universal chair for everything. Even having dinner.
Because the framework I’m building tells me that as soon as I get up, the pain will become less until it disappears entirely.
Over time, “bad pain” becomes “good pain” because I will associate it with playing beatbox – something I enjoy. Eventually, I will learn to love it. Just as bodybuilders love the pain of lifting weights.