The second penalty of "original sin," as Gatto sees it, is pain. "Pain is a friend, because it forces our attention away from the world and refocuses it squarely on ourselves. Pain of all sorts is the way we learn insight, balance, and self-control. The siren call of "Feel good!" lures us to court desirable sensations and to despise pain as a spoiler of pleasure. Pain, however, is the road to self knowledge."
When I think about the pain in my life, I am convinced that Gatto is right. Pain is a friend. Perhaps not always, and not for all people, but for me, it has been a road to self-knowledge, and it has been a blessing. I used to be afraid of it, and run from it; but I never escaped. Then I turned into it and embraced and felt it fully. I found that not only did I survive, not only did it pass, but now I'm not afraid of it anymore.
Pain is the body's or the mind's signal that there is something wrong in your life, with which one must deal – and heal.
It was psychic pain that taught me to accept and embrace who I am, and enabled me to face a society that often disapproves of my transition, and holds me and it as insane, depraved, and contemptible. It taught me the value of integrity and connection, and enabled my courage. It taught me the value of marriage, and how very much I treasure that potentially happy estate.
Physical pain taught me much, as well. A back injury taught me the limitations of my body. Working through tendonitis taught me endurance and toughness, and inspired creativity. (I was on a boat without access to splints or anything, so I cut up a coat hanger, shaped it to hold my hand immobile, and taped it on with electrical tape. Crude, but it worked. I did, too.) I've learned a lot through pain – how to breathe into it, face it, experience it, relax into it, let it pass through you. If you tense up, it stops and stays inside.
Pain has taught me compassion. That alone makes it worthwhile.
While it's true that pain is not fun, and it's not desirable for its own sake, its effects are often salutary. Like anyone else, I'll do what I can to avoid it. Yet I've found that the best way to avoid it is to face it full on and experience it fully. Somehow, that makes it bearable, and often seems to enable me to go through it and out the other side. It's not fun, but it is a friend.