Night time and when alone

Have you noticed that you always feel more pain at night than in the day? It reminds me of something I was just reading last night:


“I have been re-reading Somme: The Heroism and Horror of War by Martin Gilbert. It is striking how many men who became well known in later life served at the Somme, for instance J. R. R. Tolkien and the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Some of these veterans suffered long-lasting effects from their time there.

The person in question is Harold Macmillan, who served as an officer in the elite British army unit the Grenadier Guards. Macmillan later became British Prime Minister, from 1957 to 1963. (It always surprises me that two of the quintessentially English figures of 20th Century politics, Macmillan and Winston Churchill, were actually half-American, since their mothers were from the United States.) Macmillan was severely injured in the hip at the Somme in September 1916. He was on crutches for four years, and was left with a shuffling walk for the rest of his life.

Reflecting later on his experiences, Macmillan compared what it was like being with others and then being alone as follows:

“Bravery is not really vanity, but a kind of concealed pride, because everybody is watching you. Then I was safe, but alone, and absolutely terrified because there was no need to show off anymore, no need to pretend … suddenly there was nobody there … you could cry if you wanted to.”

…when alone, things can start to look blacker. Thus, when Macmillan became separated from the others, he for the first time felt truly terrified, even though he was in a much safer location than he had been earlier in the day. In our case, on a day when, for instance, bad test results come in, it can be much harder to stay brave about the situation if you are on your own..