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Do you think that anticipating pain is as bad as experiencing it?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on May 5, 2006

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Photo of Alex Pimental

“Generally it’s the anticipation that gets me. Usually, when you’re expecting the pain, it hurts worse because you’ve built up an expectation. If it just happens, then it doesn’t linger as long.”

Photo of Michelle Rees

“I think the anticipation is worse, because you always imagine it’s going to be worse than it is. At least I do.”

Photo of Martha Brummett

“Either one can be just as bad as the other, but anticipating it is usually worse.”

Photo of Jeremy Beezley

“Yeah, it’s worse, because people agonize over what might happen. It’s easier to deal with while you’re enduring the pain. Feeling other people’s pain or anticipating your own is definitely more stressful.”

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Kelly Powell 11 years, 11 months ago

What kind of pain are we talking about? A trip to the dentist or being interrogated with a pair of pliers and a blow torch?

sgtwolverine 11 years, 11 months ago

Wait, your dentist doesn't interrogate you with pliers and a blow torch? Maybe I should change dentists.

jonas 11 years, 11 months ago

This question would have been much more entertaining with a comma and the word "fool," or "b@#ch" stuck on the end of it.

I can't help wondering if OTS saw Ubermime's Chuck Norris reference from yesterday.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 11 months ago

You know, Jonas, if the question ended in "fool," then it would be "Asked at Massachusetts Street by Mr. T."

And if Mr. T and Chuck Norris were both involved ... that would be the best question EVER.

Anyway, for me, the anticipation is usually worse. I tend to make things worse in my mind than they are in reality. I'm too good at imagining worst-case scenarios.

l_eustacy 11 years, 11 months ago

Inmate is correct. The anticipation of a poorly designed roundabout is not nearly as bad as the experience.

H_Lecter 11 years, 11 months ago

Pain and it's anticipation are an art form, to be manipulated for the correct delivery. Sometimes the artist wishes the anticipation to be the most painful part, but my personal favorite delivery is the anticipation growing and the actual pain being the grand finale. I love it when they scream, "encore!"

Delicious website for recipes:


trinity 11 years, 11 months ago

Pywacket i'm with you-nothing in childbirth readiness classes could even come CLOSE to the actuality! great post! :)

but now that i'm old, wiser, and done with child-birthin' altogether i'd have to say that anticipation of pain usually hurts me way worse than the actual pain-if it can be anticipated.

is it just me or does this question make anybody else feel stupid?? ;)

blessed3x 11 years, 11 months ago

Is the pain the result of yet another stupid OTS question?

paladin 11 years, 11 months ago

There are three faces of pain: physical, emotional, and spiritual. The physical is the pretty one. Actually, this whole line of thought is a pain.

BunE 11 years, 11 months ago

Nothing could compare or prepare me for the pain after abdominal surgery and the first "wearing off" of the morphine.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm feeling right at home on the board today!! It's like a family and friends reunion -- I had a cat name Pywacket, believe in the Trinity, am blessed with 3 children, loved the Paladin series, my sister was an inmate, I'm almost sure Lecter is one of my brothers and I've changed Kelly C's diaper :):):)

That being said -- no, at least for me anticipating is not as painful as reality, but then again a girl learns to be tough when her brothers were/are Marines and her father a Teamster.

josette_87 11 years, 11 months ago

I don't have the fear of pain anymore. I don't like it,ongoing, but I learned to deal with it. Now, dreading doing things, alone, or just things that bother me in those are the awful things. I can deal with some major slices better than some issues or emotionally horrible people.

trinity 11 years, 11 months ago

ceallach, we all put the "fun" in dysFUNctional, eh? ;)

i love this place!

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

That's it, trinity! Is it wrong to be somehow comforted by knowing that there are so many other people as messed up as I am?

enochville 11 years, 11 months ago

One thing is for sure, if you ruminate on the pain while experiencing it that is worse that distracting yourself or focusing on relaxation while experiencing it.

trinity 11 years, 11 months ago

lmao@prospector! :p

nope ceallach, i think it's healthy! ;)

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

I like to think of myself as having a pretty high pain threshold, but the 28 hours of induced labor I experienced the first time was nothing I could have even dreamed up. My sis asked me what it felt like and I told her to imagine her worst possible pain, then multiply it by about 100. Even when I knew what to expect the second time, the 24 hours (induced, again) of labor was really not at all pleasant. So, there's the answer. Even though I knew what to expect, the reality was sooooo much worse. My mother-in-law said labor really wasn't that bad for her (she had complete control over a gas mask). My mother just told me "Oh honey, you're in for some pain." Mom is always right. I'm sure there are probably things worse than labor, I just don't want to experience them!

sgtwolverine 11 years, 11 months ago

Honestly, I was expecting an OTS question about Cinco de Mayo.

In a related note, a Cinco of any strong alcohol can help with pain.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

and yet women do it over and over again :)

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

Hey out there, put on your thinking caps and give us a new question to discuss. Birth pangs seem to have stopped this one in it's tracks.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 11 months ago

Oh, one last note on birth pains: I am told that passing kidney stones is perhaps the only pain that comes close to being able to claim equivalence to the pain of giving birth. I am told this by women who have had children and passed kidney stones.

On the bright side, you never have to pay for a college education for kidney stones.

acg 11 years, 11 months ago

S_S, I'm with you on that one. 24 hours of labor was way worse than the anticipation of labor. I knew it was going to be bad, but I had no idea just how bad. That was excrutiating. I have one word of advice for any pregnant women out there....DRUGS!! Don't be afraid to accept that shot. When I finally gave up on the whole natural birth nonsense and said bring on the drugs, it was like heaven. They won't give you a doggie bag of that stuff, though. I asked.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 11 months ago

I knew that I would be awol for a week from this board, and dreaded it all the week before. And I was right. It has been very painful to experience.

But I'm back now! Thank goodness!

The pain is gone.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

Amen, acg! I was soooo upset when my circumstances did not allow me to follow through with my "natural" birth plans -- that was with the first one -- with the next two it was more like -- nurse, in 2 minutes my time is up and I can have another shot, if you leave now you can prepare it and have it ready to inject on time!!!

Although, all births are not equally painful. I have a friend who suffered more pain and spent more time tweezing her brows than giving birth. The woman was a birthing machine. Two hours later she was sitting up in bed watching tv and all prettied up to receive visitors :)

ms_canada 11 years, 11 months ago

These are two entirely different things we are talking about here. Anticipation may be pretty terrible but compared to actual pain, it is nothing, right? I would think that prolonged pain would be the worst thing anyone could experience. Think of torture victims. Pywacket - what kind of crazy dr. did you have that let you go 46 hours in labour. I thought my 36 hours was bad but 46 is ridiculous. That was torture. I would have undergone 10 birthings rather than the one time I actually begged God to let me die immediately because this pain felt like someone was holding a blowtorch to a particular part of my body and they did not show signs of stopping. I am serious. And I could not possibly have anticipated that amount of pain. No way. Labour was nothing compared to fire. The dentist holds no fear for me either.

mlemiller 11 years, 11 months ago

I would like to thank you all. I am pregnant with my first and now I am completely terrified of what is to come.

But it's my own fault! I kept reading!

paladin 11 years, 11 months ago

One midwife writes that the purpose of the pain of childbirth is to mark the occasion and to serve as a transition to motherhood. How about that? Sounds like maybe she hasn't experienced it firsthand.

acg 11 years, 11 months ago

mlemiller, I had my baby 7 months ago Tuesday. It was horribly painful, I'm not going to lie to you at all. So many women tried to sugar coat it for me, but there is no sugar coating something like that. But I'll tell you a little secret. Every ounce of pain, every push, every time I threw up on myself in between pushing sessions was worth it. It was all so thoroughly worth it. When it's over, as the days go by the whole experience will start to seem surreal. You'll be like "did I even do that? Was that really me?" Each time you pick up your baby from that point on, you'll know why you went thru all of that pain and anguish. You'll be so glad you did, too.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

mlemiller, the only thing worse than listening to women's childbirth woes, no wait, I'm not sure there is anything worse :) Anyway. . . . just remember most of us have more than one child . . . as acg says, it's more than worth the time and discomfort (notice I quit saying pain :) We just don't want our men to forget what we sacrifice to extend their gene pool!

Linda Aikins 11 years, 11 months ago

My childbirths were not painful. My children are !! Not really, daughter! ;)

Popped out like English muffins, they did. And I only had drugs with my (yes) last one. No throwing up. No screaming.

We do make it sound horrible and scare the new mothers sometimes. Sorry about that!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

mlemiller, acg has it right. It will all be worth it. I was in so much pain with the first that I broke down (knowing that I could NEVER experience that again) and told my hubby that this would be his only child. I absolutely meant it! After that baby squeezes out (and this is where Ceallach is correct), you will willingly do it again. Maybe you'll get lucky and be like her friend who just "pops them out." Just don't count on it. Yeah, I did the first 16 hours w/out drugs (other than that horrible pitosin [sp?] that they induced me with). What a fool I was!

Ms_C, blow torch? Where? No, I don't wanna know!!!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

Gootsie, welcome back. BTW, I was in too much pain to scream! I just generally moaned, panted, whimpered, and wanted to puke. (There were some annoying screamers on my floor, though.) If I could have hauled myself out of the bed I would have gone in and told them to...well, I was in no mood to be polite.

Fatty_McButterpants 11 years, 11 months ago

blueharley: Is there more than one Hannibal Lecter??

I definitely think the pain is worse than the anticipation.

mlemiller: To offer a counter to all the horror stories, my sister elected to have the epidural (you know - the needle in the back) and she ended up having a three hour labor. My nephew came out so fast he literally bruised his face on her pelvis.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

Sharper than a serpent tooth . . . . .

mlemiller 11 years, 11 months ago

Well, thanks everyone. :) I am very excited to become a mother, but naturally a little nervous about childbirth. But I can do it!

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

too much coffee can cause premature submission - - - should read

"how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child"

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

OMB, about your buffet article: I think the business owners had every right to kick the family out of the restaurant...if in fact, they were wasting food. My girls love to go eat Chinese buffet. From the time they were itty bitties, I taught them to not put more food on their plates than they could eat. Same rule applies at home or anywhere else. They can always go back and get more food if they are still hungry. If I take my kids out to eat at a buffet, the rule is, if they got too much to eat (and I mean a completely clean plate) then they don't get to go back for more. It's just manners and common sense we are talking about here.

Now if a person kicks you out of the restaurant because they think you eat too much...that's their problem, not yours. In that case, they shouldn't offer a buffet.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

Ceal, hope your not getting your coffee at a buffet!;)

mlemiller, yes, you can do it!

ms_canada 11 years, 11 months ago

About the buffet pigs and wastrells - I agree, restraunteurs, don't let them come back. Ban them. Once in a New Orleans hotel at the breakfast buffet, I got more disgusted every morning with one family with 2 kids. Those d@## kids loaded up so high and then left 3/4 of the food on the plate. And the $!upi& parents just sat there. I was totally sickened by this behaviour. If I had have been the manager, I would have told them to eat elsewhere in the future. Oh and SS - about that pain. One problem became two when the cure was much, much worse than the initial pain.

ms_canada 11 years, 11 months ago

Another thing about pain - it has a purpose. I once heard a doctor talking about his daughter who did not experience any pain. None at all. Her parents had to keep her moving and especially at night. They had to go into her bedroom and move her in her bed. She would hurt herself, burn herself and not know it. she was constantly getting infections and that eventually killed her. She would stand in one position so long that her knees got badly infected and no one knew and the infection spread and she died at age 29. The poor father blamed himself for not noticing and felt that he was the cause of her death and he a doctor. Pain has a purpose. It alerts us to a problem.

mlemiller 11 years, 11 months ago

ms_canada, I have heard of that. You're right. There's a reason we feel pain. I saw a news story or something about a year ago where this little girl had the same disorder and they actually had to pull her teeth because she would chew on her tongue and her lips.

Okay, that's really gross and uncomfortable to think about.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

We occasionally go to King Buffet. Several months ago my daughter (not a child, early 30's) came back to the table very upset. A tiny, grandmotherly woman who is one of the cooks was refilling one item as my daughter was getting food out of another tray. The woman poked my daughter in the arm (not hurtfully) and said, "No picky, picky." My girl was very offended -- however, we never go there that she doesn't remember that incident and makes sure she does not appear to be picky, pickying :)

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

Ceallach, I'll make a mental note to not go there...that was rude of the "tiny grandmotherly woman." We've not been to that place.

What a good day...we have Ms_C using bad language and we have RI skipping through a field of daisies with a handbasket! Way too funny on both accounts!

acg 11 years, 11 months ago

I also think the restaurant owner had every right to kick those people out. Shame on them! It kills me to waste food knowing that people are starving. When I lived in Lawrence, if ever I had leftover restaurant food, I would doggie bag it and take it to that group of bums that used to hang out downtown by the bus stop(you know before they started dirtying the landscape and were chased away). I had a friend from high school that ended up being a drunk and she hangs with those guys so I would generally give her the food just to know she was eating but if she wasn't around, I'd give it to them. They are a colorful group of dudes, let me tell you.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

s_s: that leads us back to the wisdom in trinity's 8:28 post :)

Confrontation 11 years, 11 months ago

Is the pain of anticipating the stupid decisions by the city worse than actually experiencing the stupid decisions?

acg 11 years, 11 months ago

This has nothing to do with anything other than it's enjoyable and brings back some great memories. Enjoy!!

sgtwolverine 11 years, 11 months ago

Sue, apparently this question came with complimentary pain medicine, and it's making everyone loopy.

This makes me think the war on drugs question was incomplete -- shouldn't that have come with complimentary illegal drugs?

ms_canada 11 years, 11 months ago

Sorry guys for the bad language. Any way, I am out of here. Off for the weekend to a retreat at a wonderful camp. bye bye have a nice weekend.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 11 months ago

Actual pain is much worse than thinking about it. I went through 12 hours, but it ws a bad 12, before they took my oldest by Ceasarian. When I had my younger my doctor was taking natural and I said, "do I really have to? I can deal with the C-Section," and she was cool with that. Turns out I was preeclamptic and would have had to anyway, only I stayed awake that time and did an epidural. Awe, S_S, 46 hours of that!?! wince I am so sorry!!

Yes, MLE, go for the epidural! I wish I had one with my first. My niece had a baby a couple of weeks ago, hers was not a c-section, and got throught it very well with the epidural. They just don't administer as must with a more natural delivery.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 11 months ago

Ceallach, I am having a hard Friday! Can you explain what you mean by no picky, picky? What the grandmotherly person was saying?

Linda Endicott 11 years, 11 months ago

Labor was horrific for me, that's for sure. Though I didn't have to endure 46 hours of it. My sister went through 36 hours with her first, and then went on to have six kids altogether.

I did find out that, impossible as it seems, I was able to sleep briefly sometimes during the ordeal. Eventually you just get so exhausted that you will sleep anyway. I didn't have any drugs during labor, so I felt the whole thing. But my main problem was that even with the nice little episiotomy, I tore like crazy, and had so many stitches afterward that I couldn't use toilet paper for weeks.

Too graphic for you? Lol...but it was worth it. You don't focus on the pain afterward, when you have that baby in your arms.

As for pain in general, and especially with kids, they have no fear or anticipation of pain at all until they experience it the first time. I've seen babies smile at the nurse about to inoculate them the first time, up until the point when she puts the needle in.

So, you usually don't have much anxiety about pain you haven't actually experienced yet. Unless you're old enough, like me, to know that even if someone tells you something isn't going to hurt, you don't believe them.

But the actual pain is much worse than the anticipation, for me. However, knowing something will hurt, such as dental work, has made many a person put it off for far longer than they should have.

Someone mentioned buffets and doggie bags? Well, a Chinese restaurant that I go to won't allow that. If you put a lot of food on your plate, and don't eat it all, even though you've paid for it, they won't let you take it home in a doggie bag. I don't think that's right. If you already paid for the food, it should be yours. Evidently they would rather you trash it than eat it later.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 11 months ago

MD - you all healed? And you have a computer now, or - wait - you are at the library, aren't you.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 11 months ago

Ask and you shall receive!! Yesterday's discussion has summoned up Chuck Norris. The picture says Jeremy but I think it's Chuck travelling incognito.

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

Sorry, Gootsie, just got back from a meeting.

It was beef and broccoli! The woman poked the right daughter, if it had been my oldest girl, well, let's just say she is not as easily intimidated as her little sis, and way more vocal :)

YourItalianPrincess 11 years, 11 months ago

I have to agree..........the anticipation of a baby coming is wonderful. They teach you everything you need to know in child birth but how much pain you will go through.

Contractions are painful as some of you may now. I remember the nurse saying this to me..... " But honey, you are only in your first trimester of labor. "

All the trimesters of labor hurt from the beginning to the last one. I would never lie to anyone getting ready to have a baby and tell them it doesn't hurt having one.

I recently got a new tattoo and there was another girl ( college girl )waiting to have her first tattoo after me. I think getting a tattoo hurts myself and where I got it was a tender spot. Right above your ankle it a tender spot and yes it hurt alot, even worse then my back. She kept looking at me, then asked me if it hurt.

I told it hurt a bit but wait until you have a baby. Getting a tattoo is nothing compared to having a baby I told her. She said " Oh don't scare me, I want to have kids one day." I told her " Its hurts to have a baby, but after you are holding you baby in your arms you the pain goes away. "

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

A_A, not 46 for me. 28 the first time and 24 the second. Just think, if I had a 3rd, I whittle my time down to 20 hours! (Nope, not enough incentive there!)

acg, that was hysterical! I'm passing that one on.

crazyks, yeah, that RIP is a painful reminder.

RI, daisies, handbaskets, kittens...what's gotten into you today? Did you and Ms_C switch bodies on this freaky friday???;o)

Ceallach 11 years, 11 months ago

s_s, if so, RI is in trouble because he's off to a women's retreat for the weekend

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

I think we should take all high school students on a tour through a lobor and delivery ward. It would be a good form of birth control.

Funny story: When I was just about to squeeze out my 1st, my Dr came in and asked me if she could bring some students in to watch (I think they were nursing students). It didn't bother me any so in they came. That is, it didn't bother me until the hubby recognized one of the students as someone he went to school with and struck up a conversation. I just subtlely reminded them to stop talking by saying "Excuse me, your WIFE is GIVING BIRTH to YOUR FIRST CHILD here. This IS all about ME right now. DO YOU MIND?" (Yes, I'm such a diva!) The only thing worse was when the Dr "delivered" the second shoulder and the baby came out...the "students" applauded her as if she had just done the most amazing thing. (Yes, I simply don't know that I could have gotten that baby out the extra inch without her!) Whew!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm araid if RI and Ms_C have, in fact, switched bodies...Ms_C will never be asked to go on another retreat! It will seem awkward when Ms_C is sitting around a peaceful campfire and suddenly whips her pistol out of her holster and shoots a raccoon out of a tree. Oh, what a fun mental image!

H_Lecter 11 years, 11 months ago


As Hannibal, I was erased from existance 2-3 weeks ago. Someone's sense of humor was bankrupt and didn't appreciate mine.

I noticed that Fatty McB has a recipe here is that yours?

paladin 11 years, 11 months ago

H_lecter-Are you an actual psychopath, diagnosed and everything? Gosh, you must be proud.

H_Lecter 11 years, 11 months ago

No h_and_k, I think you're the only person on here that has several screen names.

Paladin, are you really Marion?

Linda Endicott 11 years, 11 months ago

You know, snuffy, you may have something there. I don't know about knee surgery, but I have had surgery on an ankle that wouldn't heal, and had pins put in.

Having been through both childbirth and the ankle surgery, I'd be hard pressed to say for sure which one was more painful. Just different areas. When the feeling came back to my leg, I just started screaming, it hurt so damn bad. I didn't do that during delivery, lol. The nice nurse heard me screaming and came right away to give me a shot of demerol.

Wonderful stuff, demerol. I found myself watching the doorknob for entertainment, and it was the best show I've ever seen. Somewhere in the back of my mind the pain from my leg was still there, but I no longer CARED.

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