Pardon me for starting with the story but it really does seem to me the best place. The first time I went for acupuncture I was very worried about holding still to prevent pain while the needles were in. My doctor was (still is actually) quite good with needle insertion but there was still some pain right at insertion and sometimes during the tonigying/dispersing manipulation. So I developed a a technique that involved breathing and msucle contraction to withstand the needle insertions.
About the fifth or sixth treatment, while the doctor was inserting needles my attention wandered. And that's when an odd thing happened. The doctor inserted a needle, which felt like all of the other insertions, but my attention was elsewhere and by the time I registered the sensation it was over. I didn't respond to the needle with my breathing and muscle contraction technique. I simply thought, ah, acupuncture needle going in. This was unusual. In fact, prior to this experience, I thought of myself as a pain wimp.
Later in the day it dawned on me that I had accepted the needles with far less upset and discomfort than any pain I had ever experienced. After reviewing the experience I realized that I had acquired a new meaning for the sensation of pain. In addition to the meanings of danger, damage, and death, I had accidentally added healing. Healing is a good thing and that's why I had not had to suppress an urge to move away form the needles.
Another change in my reaction to pain resulted from this. With two meanings I could no longer simply have knee-jerk reactions to pain. I had to classify it as either dange-damage-death or healing. That took a microsecond of thought to classify the sensation and until that was was done my body didn't react. So, I wondered, did I have a choice about how I reacted to pain?
Turns out that yes I do have a choice about how to react to pain. Its not a matter of tough-minded, teeth-gritting forbearance. Its about the meaning of the senssation. To danger-damage-death we react by moving away from the cause of the painful sensation.To healing, we relax.
And the experience taught me further. Once having the knowledge that choice of reaction was available, even after a painful impact, I was able to assess the level of danger-damage that had occurred and take action. Once the assessment was maade, the pain no longer served any purpose and it receded to the back of my mind while I looked after whatever wound I had sustained.
The nutshell is I increased my ability withstand pain by: