Character Talent & Skills: High Pain Tolerance

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

Spartan race
When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

High Pain Tolerance

Description: the ability to suppress pain and keep going is nothing short of heroic, and in many circumstances, is necessary for survival. Pain from injuries can fog the mind and break the body, so developing a high tolerance level for it can greatly enhance one’s performance and endurance in most situations.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities:

A strong, fit body, mental acuity, commitment to the current action, belief in oneself, strength of will, a strong need that surpasses all else, being able to visualize the goal and use it to strengthen one’s resolve, etc.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent:

Determination, intrepid, observant, knowledgeable, energetic, relentless, disciplined, courageous, balanced, protective, resilient, dedicated

Required Resources and Training:

While there can be a genetic component to having a high pain tolerance, much relies on the ability to focus on what’s important and set aside all distraction. Meditation can be key to achieving the state of “mind over matter” required to rise above pain and focus on the goal.

Conditioning is another way to increase one’s ability to push aside distractions, such as the rigorous physical and mental training–regular exposure to stress and pain–marines go through. That said, pain exposure therapy can have the opposite effect for some people.

Having good cardio and general physical fitness also greatly helps, but the mental aspect is just as (if not more) important. Stress level management skills, dedication, a deep need or desire and belief in oneself are key.  Positive thinking and visualizing a satisfying outcome can also help one push through difficult times.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • Athletic competitions and races
  • Survival situations (being lost in the wilderness, caught in a mine collapse, suffering from heat or cold exposure, etc.)
  • War
  • Being tortured
  • Being taken, hunted or trying to escape (the law, serial killer, kidnappings, etc.)
  • Abusive situations
  • High stake situations where others are counting on one’s efforts (desperately needed monetary compensation, a life and death event, etc.)
  • Childbirth
  • Emergency medical treatment when proper equipment or medicines might not be available
  • Fighting illness

Resources for Further Information:

Heal Thyself: Mind Over Matter

Stopping Pain With Your Mind

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

photo credit: cogdogblog via photopin cc

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11 Responses to Character Talent & Skills: High Pain Tolerance

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [06.09.14]

  2. This is an interesting trait to imbue your characters with. It made me think about an old TV series with David Carradine. I think it was called Kung Fu and it ran for years. Undoubtedly, the appeal was the inner strength of the monk.

  3. Another great entry. This is one that certainly comes up often in thrillers, but now I see many more uses for it. Thanks.

  4. Julie Musil says:

    Another awesome entry! Thanks, Angela

  5. Tim McCanna says:

    I’ve suffered from chronic pain since ’85 and have gone through all sorts of therapy, rehab and medications. I lost most of the 2000′s to high levels of narcotics until my doctor’s moved me off of them when their efficacy quit working.

    What I’ve learned to do is to exercise by walking as many days a week as I can and to keep distracted until the exhaustion of the day puts me to sleep (along with some medication to fight bipolarity). Creative distractions seem to be the best for me and that is why I write two to four hours in the morning everyday. What I didn’t see mentioned in the blog, is how draining pain is. It literally saps your energy away. This can lead to being exhausted and then to be being depressed.

    My nephew and his daughter are “gingers” who are genetically able to handle more physical pain. However, there is a cost. Medication doesn’t work well on them or wears off too quickly.

    I wanted to post this, not as a litany of problems or personal hells I go through, but just to give personal insight into the realm of pain on a daily basis.

    Thanks for the blog. It’s a topic that I need to think about in the abstract at times to remember how well I actually have it.

    Tim McCanna

    • Very good points, especially in regards to the long term effects of chronic pain. It does wear a person down, affects mood and can cause depression–all good stuff! Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of this :)

  6. My family seems to have a high threshold for pain. A lot of times, we can’t feel physical conditions such as heart problems until it gets really bad/almost too late. We also tend to not show up on tests such as EKGs. So unless they go in and find the blockage, it goes undiagnosed.

  7. :Donna Marie says:

    I just love the traits you point out :)

  8. Lori Schafer says:

    The “lightbulb” moment in this for me was how you describe pain tolerance as involving having the ability to maintain focus on what’s important. So much more interesting than the usual physical definitions, and a terrific concept to explore in writing.

    • This is one skill I think everyone would love to have. I would like to see a character who has this, but is not exactly who a reader would expect! Glad it gave you a nice light bulb moment–love those!

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