I have toothache as I write. I am in pain. My tooth needs to come out. I am
attached to it, but, it has done its job and we now need to part company. But don’t let me fool you into thinking that I have taken a completely quick and rational decision. I have had recurring problems with this particular tooth for some time. Each time the pain flares I know that it needs extracted. My dentist has confirmed this and told me to arrange an appointment whenever I feel it needs to happen. However, just before I make the call, the pain inevitably recedes. Why is this? Does it really? Do I imagine it has? Do I fool myself that it has? Whatever the reason, I end up putting off thoughts of calling the dentist until the next time the pain returns.
So why is it that we avoid taking action that we know would alleviate our pain? Why is it so hard for people to do the things that are actually good for them? A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (2014), Gilbert, McEwan, Catarino, Baiao and Palmeira, suggests that the fear of experiencing a positive outcome might be stronger than the desire to heal.