Survival in Harsh Conditions and Central Pain

You have read the stories of explorers. They had to face difficult travel and endure all kinds of unpleasant sensory experiences. Sound familiar?


Civilization has its burdens and complexities, to be sure. It also provides some pleasures such as socialization, mass production of goods, and relief agencies if needed. However, when one launches out onto an adventure of exploration, it is often to be free of these very features of society. The conditions endured seem impossibly bleak to observers. Existence so near the edge seems monotonous, yet those who undergo the venture do not perceive it that way. Survival is actually one of the most intense experiences one can have. Those who pass through such an experience tend to remember small details vividly. Their vulnerability means that they live for one object only, to survive.

Central Pain is quite similar in some ways. Those with the severe variety can think of little else except the moment to moment grind against the pain and how they fend off the message which unbearable ceaseless pain sends. It is not much different from a blizzard which could take the life if not guarded against. Central Pain is the ultimate storm of the senses. Although this article counsels you to focus your attentions to what will promote survival, it really does not need to be said. Central Pain is so terrible that it forces such behavior without being advised to do so.

For some, however, it takes a while to realize that such a strict reordering of life’s priorities must take place. When asked to describe life, so much must be eliminated from the definition for the battle against pain. It seems sinful to live so narrowly, but the alternative is to surrender to the pain on a dark lonely night and then, cease to exist. Virtually every person who jumps off the Golden Gate bridge and survives (not many do) admits that they knew they had made a mistake the moment they jumped.

We must therefore assume that we were meant to live out this life, however difficult it may seem. Eternity is a long, long, long time. Let us go into it knowing that we fought the battle to the end, endured defeat after defeat, but were not cut off from reaching the finish line by failure of will. With all your many weaknesses, this is one victory you can claim. “The race is not to the swift, but to he that endureth to the end.” Somewhere on the other side of that veil is a cheering crowd to salute you for the effort.

Hang on. Some very bright people are determined to break up pain, and it is only a matter of time. Live long enough to protest loudly to the public, to hasten the effort, and give numerical increase to those who seek a voice in the establishment of research priorities.

It helps a little to view central pain as an adventure. It is a dark and malicious adventure, but the stakes are high and so the game must be played out craftily and with the cunning that man/woman possesses. The prize is simply experience, which we hope God can make something out of, even if its purpose eludes us. The New Testament speaks of “learning through the things that he suffered”. By that account, we should all be geniuses by now, yet we seem more confused and tired than ever.

Since the meaning of central pain is withheld from us at the present, we need not wait until such meaning is supplied before we survey, reflect, and assemble such survival weapons as are necessary to make it through. The NIH, as cited below, has said that the main weapon is to remove stress from life. Since Central Pain itself is a huge stressor, that means there is not much room for other stresses. Please keep the NIH’s advice in mind as you read this article. Perhaps you could even talk to your doctor about the best ways to reduce stress.

Although we have no satisfactory treatment for CP at the present time, anticonvulsants have traditionally been the main drugs. It is theorized that the benefit of anticonvulsants comes from their ability to keep the brain from firing rapidly. Avoiding stress tends to do the same thing. Make some rules for yourself that will avoid stress. You may be surprised to learn that we think the satisfaction of improving a bad habit or two may confer satisfaction that reduces stress.

Some states of existence require narrowing the concerns to survival. Thinking on this may allow you to narrow your priorities to what helps you make it through the pain. In the end, this curtailment of function may paradoxically make you MORE functional.

We do what we can do, but when we run faster than we have strength, we fall. Some pacing and restraint are necessary for any human. For those venturing into precarious areas of survival, priorities are essential.

Sometimes reflection on journeys of exploration to difficult places provides some guidelines on survival. Even those who failed provide valuable insight. One good example is Sir Robert Scott, the second man to visit the South Pole (Amundsen beat him by a month). Scott was not well prepared although unquestionably brave. There seems to have been nothing bad about the man. He was sacrificing to his men and good to his family. Among his final words to his wife, Kathleen, were these:

“Dear it is not easy to write because of the cold