A friend of mine says that every time you get a physical injury, your IQ goes up a few points. Her theory is that having an injury forces you to do things differently, forcing you to get new perspectives and change your patterns, opening new pathways inside your brain. I thought of her theory today as I tried to negotiate our hilly campus with an injured knee. Instead of walking along in my usual fog, I had to keep stopping and planning what routes I wanted to take.
I suppose that is why I rarely take pain medication for an injury. It seems to me that pain has a function, a reason for being, something to teach me. The pain in my knee reminds me to take the elevator instead of the stairs, reminds me not to leap off a step, reminds me to take care of that leg so it can heal.
I wonder sometimes if emotional pain can make us smarter. Does the deep sadness of a loss, the sting of rejection, or the deep hurt when you've just been insulted by a close friend – does that open new pathways in the brain? Perhaps there is some kind of silver lining to emotional pain, some way of using it to learn, to grow, to change patterns for the better.