A very interesting article about the benefits of using pain, and basically just pushing through misery, to get better.
Exposure therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, involves subjecting patients to increasing amounts of things they fear, or otherwise hope to avoid. It is one of the great success stories of mental health, and it’s not just for phobias. Research on cases of intense fear and even traumatic brain injury shows that for a number of problems, the only way out is through. After a concussion, for instance, many people find themselves unable to work. Reading for any length of time kicks off bouts of dizziness and a bright light could bring on crashing headaches. Even thinking for any length of time is exhausting. Anything but sitting still and sheltering the mind feels like a dangerous activity. That aversion to pain is perfectly natural, but it can lead to a stalled-out recovery.
Though the vast majority of concussion sufferers are fully recovered within three months or so, a “miserable minority”—5 percent or so—have persistent, debilitating symptoms. Long-term follow up shows no improvement, and even deterioration years down the road. Until recently there was no proven treatment for this seemingly permanent damage to quality of life.
The best treatment for overcoming concussions is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that includes going back to work for a longer workday each week, and exercising with progressively greater intensity, even if one’s symptoms come roaring back with a vengeance. Only by pushing through the misery, it seems, can the brain get back to its normal activities.
Exposure therapy is also a highly effective tool for overcoming post-traumatic stress. Reliving the battlefield from the safety of a peacetime environment has been shown to gradually remove the expectation of harm from the memory.
Because more often than not, harsher is better.