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Self-Protection is a Self-* Property. It means proactive identification and protection from arbitrary attacks. Central mechanisms to protect the body in organic lifeforms are stress and unpleasant sensations. Pain is the most prominent member of a class of unpleasant sensations known as bodily sensations, which include itches:

  • itches: sensation indicating light physical annoyance (for example by parasites), evokes the desire or reflex to scratch
  • pain: sensation indicating severe physical damage of the system, evokes the desire or reflex to avoid the situation

Pain is an unpleasant sensation resulting from the intricate interplay between sensory and cognitive mechanisms. It is associated with actual or potential tissue damage in natural organisms. Although it is unpleasant, it is a necessary mechanism of systems with the capability of effective self-protection. Effective self-protection means fast self-protection. The rapid warning through pain is a critical component of the body’s defense system.

Pain seems to be a general, necessary mechanism of systems with the capability of self-protection, because it signals the place where the self-protecting mechanisms fail or where they are badly needed. A painful stimulus leads to a massive activation of multiple units, and prevents at the same time any actions associated with it. It draws the attention of the whole system to a certain part, but inhibits any action associated with it. It is characterized by a loss in the flow of information, or in the members of the system.

It is for every person and organization unpleasant if the income drops while the spendings increase. For an organization, especially the departments which have very high costs and zero revenue contribute to this unpleasant situation. In companies, there is a capital inflow and capital outflow (usually in form of products). If there is a sink for the capital flow in between, it becomes painful for the company: a department or product which has cost lots of time and money but never results in real money from customers is very unpleasant.

A conflict between members or a loss of good members is unpleasant, especially if they cannot be replaced by suitable members of the same value:

  • A trainer of a sports team feels pain if his best players are banned from the field, and he cannot replace them with suitable new players
  • A general feels pain if his army loses in a continued campaign lots of soldiers, and he cannot replace them with new ones
  • A bishop feels pain if his church loses lots of members, while the number of new members is sinking, too. A chief of a political party will do the same
  • A CEO feels pain if his company loses a lot of employees which take valuable experience with them, if he cannot replace them with suitable new ones

Like other self-properties, self-protection can have severe consequences and side-effects if the integrity of the self is affected: if the self is not recognized correctly. A negative side-effect of self-protection are autoimmune diseases and allergies. In autoimmune diseases the body attacks the ‘self’ and its own cells, examples are Diabetes Mellitus (type 1) or Multiple Sclerosis. In allergies, the body attacks harmless targets which are normal parts of the body: allergens such as dust, pollen, or certain foods. In both cases, the body attacks parts of itself which are harmless. The distinction between self/nonself and harmless/harmful goes wrong. In autoimmune diseases, parts of the self are mistaken for hostile agents, and in allergies, harmless targets are mistaken for harmful intruders. Most autoimmune diseases are probably the result of multiple circumstances, for example, a genetic predisposition triggered by an infection. Autoimmune diseases result from at least three different interacting components: genetic, environmental and regulatory.


  • SEP Entry for Pain
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