Referred pain

Where does it hurt?

That may not be where the problem is.

April 19, 2018

About two years ago, my last two teeth on the upper left side got pulled.  There’s nothing there but empty space now.

About two months ago, the top part (the crown) of my lower left canine tooth broke off.  This didn’t cause any pain until about a week ago, and I finally saw my dentist about it today.  The pain at times has been pretty severe.

But that lower left tooth has not been where I felt it.  The most severe pain has come from the empty space I referred to.

This is called “referred pain.”  It occurs when the pain flowing into one nerve channel becomes more than that one can handle, so it overflows into other nerve channels.

A man known to me is one of the world’s foremost experts on problems of the jaw joint (“TMJ” or “TMD”).  A crucial first step in treatment is to rule out other possible causes of the pain.  This author’s book includes an extensive, detailed map of other places in the body where pain may come from that appears in the head, neck or shoulders.

The pain’s coming from somewhere, but that may not be where we feel it.

And we may or may not ever find out its real source.

It occurs to me today that this may explain bigotry.

Make no mistake: such folk are in very real pain.

But what they say’s causing it, ain’t necessarily so, and we may never find out the real cause.

Accordingly, they are to be regarded with love and compassion, no matter how ugly their deeds or words.

The identified source of the pain is often a socially-or-subculturally approved villain, scapegoat, target or bogeyman.  In Germany in the 1920s, the socially approved villain was Jews.  For many, many years in the American South, the socially approved target was blacks.  For Donald Trump, the scapegoat has been immigrants.   Many people in my world today use “The System” as bogeyman.

My late Uncle John worked for decades in a responsible position at a certain firm, and then in his 50s got laid off.  He never understood or accepted the event or the reasons for it (if there were any), and never found employment again.  Now, in that day, a man’s job was focal to his sense of manliness, merit and worth; so this was a really, really big deal.  In his last decades, Uncle John was prone to make highly bigoted statements about various groups, including Hispanics and poor people and gays.  This jolted me, as being completely inconsistent with the way we were raised.  But at least, in his case, the source of his pain was clear.

It can be worse if one expects the universe to be a just place, or if one believes events have deviated from “God’s plan.”  There can be tremendous pain there.  There is a need simply to accept What Is.

And that some of God’s children are bigots, is simply part of What Is.

Related: Transference, BLM and anti-Semitism

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