E. Tolle, “The Pain-Body”

Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. London, Penguin, 2008.

Excerpted from A New Earth:

The pain­body, however, is not just individual in nature. It also partakes of the pain suffered by countless humans throughout the history of humanity, which is a history of continuous tribal warfare, of enslavement, pillage, rape, torture, and other forms of violence. This pain still lives in the collective psyche of humanity and is being added to on a daily basis, as you can verify when you watch the news tonight or look at the drama in people’s relationships. The collective pain­body is probably encoded within every human’s DNA, although we haven’t discovered it there yet (88).

An infant with only a light pain­body is not necessarily going to be a spiritually “more advanced” man or woman than somebody with a dense one. In fact, the opposite is often the case. People with heavy pain­bodies usually have a better chance to awaken spiritually than those with a relatively light one. Whereas some of them do remain trapped in their heavy pain­bodies, many others reach a point where they cannot live with their unhappiness any longer, and so their motivation to awaken becomes strong (88).

The pain­body is a semi­autonomous energy form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion. It has its own primitive intelligence, not unlike a cunning animal, and its intelligence is directed primarily at survival. Like all life­forms, it periodically needs to feed – to take in new energy – and the food it requires to replenish itself consists of energy that is compatible with its own, which is to say, energy that vibrates at a similar frequency. Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain­body. That’s why it thrives on negative thinking as well as drama in relationships. The pain­body is an addiction to unhappiness (89).


Digestions/Questions …

  • thinking about the collective painbody relative to public mourning … the catharsis, perhaps, in simultaneous feeding – breaking bread of shared negative emotions across a community.
  • remembering: ‘affect marks a body’s belonging to a world of encounters or; a world’s belonging to a body of encounters but also, in non-belonging, through all those far sadder (de)compositions of mutual in-compossibilities’ (Seigworth & Gregg 2).
  • also, might the responses to grief indicate ‘heaviness’ of individual painbody? lighter painbodies shut down with upbeat/placating cliches like ‘time will heal’/’he’s finally out of pain’/’you have an angel up there’ (like Silvan Tomkins’s ‘affective scripts’), and heavier painbodies offer a more empathic reaction or are more prone to simply listen/dwell? maybe?
  • how could painbody as ‘addiction to unhappiness’ relate to attention span relative to loss?
  • considering affect contagion and ‘affects are not private obscure internal intestinal responses but facial responses that communicate and motivate at once both publicly and outward to the other and backward and inward to the one who smiles or cries or frowns or sneers or otherwise expresses his affects’ (Tomkins vii). is affect contagion at play in digital emoting? are bodies still prone to experience grief in the same ways sans actual ‘facial response’? how might tolle’s take on painbody play into grief shared in online society.

next step (per Derek’s recommendation): Annemarie Mol, Body Multiple?



3 thoughts on “E. Tolle, “The Pain-Body”

  1. Pingback: the mourning post as punctum | {kin}aesthetic composure

  2. Pingback: performing empathies [the empathics] | {kin}aesthetic composure

  3. Pingback: address unknown. | {kin}aesthetic composure

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