Love isn’t the only thing that hurts. Leigh Cowart knows. Eating the world’s hottest pepper hurts. Ballerinas dancing on broken bones hurts. A sideshow freak electrocuting themself hurts. Ultramarathon running, jumping into an icy lake, and tattooing all hurt. Why are we doing all of this to ourselves on purpose?
This question, and many others, are answered in Leigh Cowart’s scintillating new book, Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose. Masochism, Cowart’s learned, is a part of who we are. But why? What are the benefits? And at what cost? What does giving ourselves pain say about the human experience? Cowart dives into the neuroscience behind it, through conversations with psychologists, scientists, and those that seek pain for pleasure. Cowart, by the way, is a self-proclaimed masochist, seeking out the thrill of it. They participate in painful activities to find some greater understanding of how our minds and bodies find meaning in pain, and the relief after.
Leigh Cowart is a researcher and journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Buzzfeed News, Hazlitt, Vice, and other outlets.
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Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, United States