The pleasure and pain of philosophizing

PHILOSOPHIZING can be an enjoyable activity. But we know that there are dangers in enjoying a thing too much. There's got to be pain along with the pleasure, because if there isn't pain then you're not trying hard enough.
     Philosophy is hard, and is meant to be hard. It's about stretching your mind to thoughts or ideas you can barely grasp. That doesn't mean you have to be a genius to do it. It does mean making maximum use of whatever mental capacity you have.
     Philosophy changes you. The process of self-transformation is painful because old parts of you have to die off so that new parts can grow. It can also be scary, because you don't know, or can't see clearly, where this process is taking you.
     We become very attached to our beliefs and assumptions. We think of them as part of 'us'. When we let them go, it can feel as of our very selfhood is under attack.
     At some time you will experience the despair and anguish of being defeated by a problem despite your best efforts. Maybe you can take comfort in the thought that some thinker will solve the problem, some day. Or not. Not all problems are soluble, not all questions have answers. How small does that make us!
     (There is a kind of pain that is merely contemptible: the pain of self-pity, when you realize that you are too fearful to pursue a topic. Yet there's hope, still. Hope that you can overcome your self-contempt and man up.)
     So far, we have contrasted pain and pleasure. However, the pain of philosophizing has a flip side, which explains why some become addicted to it:
     Like body-builders working out, we come to find the pain pleasurable. The more pain, the more pleasure. We count the pain that each extra fraction of a centimetre of muscle cost us. (This has nothing to do with the psychopathology of masochism, a form of neurotic acting out.)
     One can test this.
     Imagine a keyboard or typewriter that actually causes you physical pain as you press the keys. Let's say this is the only way of getting words down on paper that you are allowed to use (what exquisite torture for an imprisoned writer, say).
     Wouldn't you enjoy the pain, the electric shocks as they punished your fingers, or the deafening sound of loudspeakers magnifying the clatter to maximum decibels? You are suffering for your art, to be sure, but more than that, you have mentally transformed the pain, made it into something different, by the very fact that the pain becomes your way of making those words appear.
     Whatever words they may be, they become more valuable because of the agony they caused you.
     Maybe your words were not that remarkable after all. In the cold light of day, from the comfort of your arm chair or hospital bed, as you gradually come back to your senses, you realize that the words you wrote were merely clichéd or mediocre, badly chosen, over wrought. Not all writings of political prisoners, noble though the authors may be, are worth reading, or have any value other than as a treasured relic (the last writing from X's own hand).
     So perhaps the real point of the thought experiment is this: It isn't enough that you are bravely surmounting the pain. Your skill and critical judgement have to be there. Always. The judgement that the pain you are suffering is worth it.
     And similarly with philosophizing. Don't think, don't assume that because it hurts, it must be good. Banging your head against a wall hurts a lot, but has never yet been know to solve a philosophical problem.