'Words they say can do no harm. But sticks and stones can break your bones. Not altogether true. A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.'
(Jessamyn West, 1979, p.20)
I agree that words can hurt but we can choose to continue to feel that pain or deal with it through ignoring, challenging, counselling or acceptance and moving on. With physical pain, we don't always have the choice. Right now I find it hard to ignore the pain of my broken arm, or how tired I am from lack of sleep. As CS Lewis (1943) says, 'pain insists on being tended to.' And painkillers don't always kill pain and even if they did you can't take them 24/7 without a downward spiral of physical effects.
But it is true, that that knot in your stomach, from an unkind word or lost love, can surpass any pain and sadly be recalled, in a way no physical pain can. When my physical pain fades and disappears I will not get flashbacks of that pain equal or stronger than the original. I cannot build up the effect of the pain in the same way that a verbal attack or a disappointment builds to the point where it cuts me down emotionally and with associated anxiety or sadness, lack of sleep and exacerbating stress brings me to the point when the mental pain becomes physical.
As CS Lewis (1943) maintains:
'Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.'
But then, where are we when we begin with physical pain and as it goes on, it takes on an emotional and mental element which leaves us open, in our vulnerable states to the effects of any added attacks on our physical, mental and emotional states, from broken bones to unkind words.
The problem is that they are all the same. They are really nothing but the chemistry of our bodies and its how we interpret them that makes them feel different and how we overcome them that makes us different, better than our former pain-free selves, because we have learned to rise above the pain and appreciate what we have.
And while the pain is there, a true test of our characters and of the characters of those around us is how we treat each other. CS Lewis (1943) said of the 'problem of pain' that:
'Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment.'
West, M. J. (1979) The Life I Really Lived, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Lewis, C.S. (1943) The Problem of Pain, Geoffrey Bless, The Centenart Press, London