Self-inflicted pain; exchanged for pure soul

Giving up a bad habit for Lent may make you feel less guilty or cleanse your soul if you are religious.

This is the outcome of a University of Queensland research that identifies some self-inflicted pain helps ease the psychological burden of immoral behaviour.

Researchers wanted to test the hypothesis that people seek out pain as a response to their own immoral behaviour and found that punishment actually reduced guilt.

Chief researcher, Dr Brock Bastian said the research helped in the understanding of how people make sense of pain.

“Self-inflicted pain can be used to right the judicial scales and communicating remorse to others, or God if you are religious.”

“Is it something that is being fed to them through a culture that has Christian values embedded, or is it a more basic thing?,” he asks.

“There are reasons to suspect that it is more basic. We often use our early experiences of the world to make sense of higher concepts and I think the link between punishment and pain is something that is very hard to disentangle.”

History identifies self-flagellation, wearing of hair shirts and religious festivals such as Ramadan or Lent are all examples of ritualised pain.

ABC Science
Image: Clare McCormack

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