Feeling Worse to Feel Better
Although pain itself induces negative affect, the removal (or offset) of pain induces a powerful state of relief. Despite being implicated in a wide range of psychological and behavioral phenomena, relief remains a poorly understood emotion. In particular, some theorists associate relief with increased positive affect, whereas others associate relief with diminished negative affect. In the present study, we examined the affective nature of relief in a pain-offset paradigm with psychophysiological measures that were specific to negative valence (startle eyeblink reactivity) and positive valence (startle postauricular reactivity). Results revealed that pain offset simultaneously stimulates positive affect and diminishes negative affect for at least several seconds. Results also indicated that pain intensity differentially affects the positive and negative valence aspects of relief. These findings clarify the affective nature of relief and provide insight into why people engage in both normal and abnormal behaviors associated with relief.