The Body: Pain Tolerance: a Survivor Advantage

We often hold that bloody coin in our hands as we have done for years, marveling at its advantages . . . and by studying closely (peering down at it, trying to peek past the blood) – the disadvantages of being an abused child.  Sounds easy but it isn’t. Not always.

Pain Tolerance is one of them.  Sounds wonderful.  Here’s some stories from my ‘alters’, those souls within that I/we cherish and carry.

(Children’s written by, LOL, your man Elvis):

“We were strong.  We were brave”.  Indeed, they were; we were big for our age – not tall, just stocky. “We wore ‘husky size.” If that means anything.  But they were KIND and gentle most of the time, tell ’em about it boys:

“We fought a LOT.  Almost every day it seems.  Fighting all the time.” (They are sad, heads down thinking) “We would see someone getting beat up, sometimes my brother.  He was always starting fights.”  (Me to them; they are very sad, their tears mine.)  They tried to rescue him – every time – even though these two brothers were at war all the time.  Quite literally.  Okay.

“We were pitched against teenagers.” (okay, ages 8-11)  “We always won.  It was a tough battle.” (okay, DA responds to that; BATTLE is his war-cry)

And here’s the gist of it, folks, cuz’ I can’t stand putting them through this; not good for them, or us the system, and yer ol’ friend Elvis has a hard time typing with swimming eyeballs like trying to see through chicken soup, LOL!

Anyway: These little guys didn’t know when to say ‘quit’.  They would never stop once they started – until the other guy was down and crying.  And then their little hearts would melt, and they’d let the ‘bad guy’ (who was beating up someone else) – go.  Every time.  Just like that.  A born rescuer.  And yeah: they were ‘pitched’ against teenagers – everyone in that ‘hood knew: you don’t mess with Mikie.  He’ll whoop yer ass.  Big and small.  Had one fight go for 3 days, he wants to brag a bit, though he was getting his ass whipped and he knew it.  (12 yr old ‘huskier’ vs. 9 yr old ‘husky’ – brother started it).

But that goes to show: pain tolerance.  This little sucker could suck it up – he ATE pain (“bit a hunk outta a mean bully 18 yr old shoulder” – bully who smashed him across the face with one of those great big old tin Tonka dump trucks, LOL!).  The more pain – the more enraged.  Pain was shut off.  He has lots of fight stories he’d love to tell (he’s happy about them: he was a WARRIOR!! LOL, yes you were pat on the head and now here’s teen butting in).

“They called me Tank.  We were with the military G.I.’s.  We were from about 11 on up to 14, we ‘changed’ at 13,14; put on armor shell around self.  But – they called me Tank because I was the one who would ram through the briers and nettlefields in Germany.  They handed us a manual there: it was called “Survival, Evasion, and Escape” – and it was for escaping from Germany should the Soviets arrive.”  (This was during the cold war).

“My mom came and told us: ‘if anything happens’ – meaning the Soviets come marching across from East German – only 30 to 100 miles away – with their 35,000 tanks to our 3,500, their bombs and planes and nuclear warheads – we were to get to the Rhein Main Airbase.  From there we would take a plane home.”

“Problem was, as was explained to us by some military guy in some kinda conference, Rhein Main will probably be a glowing nuclear crater when we get there – so you’re gonna have to head for the coast, try and catch a boat home.”  They left us with pictures of WWII and the devastation – how would we get home through THAT … and besides, won’t all the ports get blown up, too?”

Lots of worries for him, that teenager of mine.  Transplanted into a foreign country, total loss of friends and environment (even if it did include that pedophile friend of his – they’d come to ‘terms’, each hating each other I guess or something like that.  Weird story behind it, can’t tell here or now.)  He/we studied survival for 13, 14 years – we are a survivor, after all, and quite literally.

And then there was the moving, moving, moving all the time, 6 times in one year once; changing schools like seasons, sometimes more than once in a season . . .

God, that makes him/us angry sometimes.  How can you make friends like that – and when your parents are oft-times your worst enemies (but now, living on a military base in apartment like quarters, the physical abuse ends – secrecy must be kept, eh?)

But here’s the point: Tank.  This kid is literally right.  We played in the brush with the G.I.’s – spying for them, misleading them, tricking them into false battles and real ones; sneaking into the ammo dump – and WAR!  Oh yes, military kids play war like no others.  Our Little one, Mikie – he knew how to make bunji stake pits by age 8.  He visited an Army mockup of a Vietnam village about them – still remembers the BB’s raining down from a claymore, the fighting and the shooting; bodies dangling from a bamboo tower.  Kewl, yeah, eh, Mikie.  He knew they weren’t real – but dad was in Vietnam right then. And this kid had a very vivid imagination (showing me the cardinal in a tree that won him an award in first grade – which then got him into trouble.  Poor kid.  Could never win those kinds of wars, could ya.  (tousle hair, soft smile he sits on piano bench with me LOL, yup, F’d up mind, we have a damned grand piano for a keyboard in my mind – I hear Jeffery singing in the background, sweet soul.)

O’tay, gettin’ back to business.  Where did this pain tolerance come from?

Oh, wait a minute – almost forgot one.  The littlest one.

They found him frying his hands on the stove – the smell of burnt meat brought them running.  We thinks he had his busy little hands swatted so much he just ‘turned them off’ – and put them on the stove.  This apparently at age 2 or 3 – that part is sort of shut down, permanently perhaps, we don’t know.

Here’s the rub.  By age 18 – pain no longer mattered.  A Marine to boot. (pun in that, LOL!)  Tough tough tough as nails.  Kindness and rage simmering in a pot.  A sense of direction a homing pigeon would envy.  Hard.  Kind.  Smart (college already! pre-med!) plus more.

“I remember us (M3) cutting a cyst out of our knee.  The doc – the insurance doc provided by the company – F’d up the incision.  Had gotten a thorn in my kneecap in a swamp crawling up a slope.  Over the years: cyst.  Doc was an old drunk, fired 2 weeks after he got done with me.  A month later: new cyst.  So we’s goes into the bathroom, gets on the counter, puts pressure under the thigh, cut off circulation until the leg goes numb, gets out the razor and tweezers – and cuts that little thing out of me. Thing is – it went down the the kneecap because the doc – cutting a HUGE 4 inch slash for a 1/2 inch cyst, had folded the skin UNDER.  We used to work in Army animal labs, too – we know these things; they took us under their wing; we learned about operational procedure etc.”

LOL, surprising how careful a ‘doc’ gets when he’s operating on himself – without anesthesia – we kept it down to a 1/2 inch cut, but had to basically ‘go to the bone’ to remove everything.  And unlike doc – it never came back.

So to sum all this horrifying nonsense up, here goes:

Victims of physical harm types of child abuse often develop a high tolerance to pain and discomfort – very little whining or complaining about something that must hurt.  It’s a cue, folks, come on!  Just one straw in a stack, mind you!  Other straws must be counted!  “They” – like some of us – can throw someone up who can ‘suck up’ or ‘eat up’ the pain ‘for them’ (the inner cores).  Usually this physical pain just enrages them (unless they are being beaten by their abusers, who dominate them completely – like caregivers).  “They” can ‘zone out’ – the body an automaton, with them just dimly aware of whats going one, just barely controlling it – or completely ‘falling back’ and not controlling it at all – perhaps just feeling it moving, watching it – perhaps with horror, fear, overlaid with – someone else.

BUT: It is our survival advantage. We can – and DO – throw someone ‘up’ capable of ‘handling the task’ – whether navigating us through a car wreck or night woods; taking on a mugger or home intruder; going to the dentist (LOL, zone time!) – you name it.  We’ve built someone to handle it.  After all – (in our minds!) – you can never be sure.  Like I told someone a few days back: I can’t promise I’ll be here tomorrow.  For all I know, a rock will fall on my head.  Scientifically I know it’s next to impossible – but still.  Don’t ask me to promise that.  😀  We’re good like that – and combined with what seems a strong ‘rescuer’ instinct – gee . . .

We can be heros if we want to.  And often are 😀


About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle ( ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
This entry was posted in Anger, child abuse, child abuse survivor, Counselors, DID, DID Advantages, dissociative identity disorder, mental health, Mental Health Professionals, MPD, Psychiatry, psycho-analysis, Psychology, Schizophrenia, Stories of Child Abuse, survivor, therapist, therapy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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