Insight from Pain and Gain

Insight from Pain and Gain

A recent film that demonstrates an incredibly obvious example of the ego’s obsession with external fulfillment and endless desire is Pain and Gain directed by Michael Bay. The movie is rather absurd and hilarious at times because of just how far out it gets, all the while the reminder that it is in fact a true story. Throughout the film we get to see the very core of the ego’s belief systems revealed as the endless desire for ‘bigger, faster, stronger, and always more, more, more’. The ego is never satisfied and can never know contentment and in Pain and Gain this is exactly what we get to observe and learn from. The following piece is an wonderful analysis provided and written by Marc Amos discussing the ego’s endless desire as well as the processes of the ‘pain-body’ as described by Eckhart Tolle.

Marc Amos:

Pain Body Definition (Paraphrased from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth)

The pain—body is a highly contagious emotional entity, which can be caught and individualized by anybody exposed to it.  The pain-body is semiautonomous energy-form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion.  It has its own primitive intelligence, not unlike a cunning animal and its intelligence is directed primarily at survival. Like all life-forms it periodically needs to feed—to take in new energy, and the pain-body does this through taking psychic energy.  Psychic energy is time of your conscious thought, which leads to your actions and habits as well. 

Emotion from the pain-body quickly gains control of your thinking and once your mind has been taken over by the pain-body your thinking becomes negative.  The voice in your head will be telling sad, anxious or angry stories about yourself or your life about other people, about past, future or imaginary events.  After the Pain-Body has controlled your thinking for a few hours or a few days it will return to its dormant stage, leaving behind a depleted organism and a body that is more susceptible to illness.  If that sounds to you like a psychological parasite, you are right.  That’s exactly what it is.

The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain body.  The pain body, however, is not just individual in nature.  It also partakes of the pain suffered by countless humans by other humans throughout the history of humanity, which is a history of continuous tribal warfare, of enslavement, pillage, rape, torture, and other forms of violence.  This pain still lives in the collective psyche of humanity and is being added to on a daily basis.

Pain and Gain:

An Illustration of the Pain-Body’s Evolution

The Move Pain and Gain is based on a wildly true story, which portrays how the pain body still lives and is being added to everyday.  The Hindu’s used to have an ancient understanding of what they called the three veils of maya, or three illusions of reality.  The first is genetic inheritance, the second is society, and the third is the ego.  These three illusions of reality make up our inherited dysfunction the Hindu philosophy believes we need to be awakened from.  The movie based on the true story will provide illustration how the third veil of maya, the ego, adds to the pain-body still today through our inherited dysfunction.

Insight from Pain and Gain - The ego/pain-body

The movie is a fun theatrical endeavor, which is sometimes comical because of how ridiculous the action plays out.  However, there is nothing funny about the destructiveness that can be caused by the mind frames/belief systems the movie portrays.  The mind frame the movie accurately amplifies is the structure of the ego as the want for more, and the pain it creates from exclusive association with the physical world and desire for more tangible worth and value.  This mind frame is blind and incapable of seeing any other kind of value or development in life besides through the external world.  The pain-body is the concept Eckhart Tolle developed in his book A New Earth, and we will use the movie to demonstrate how the pain-body is interwoven with the ego.

Pain and Gain was a great Michael Bay Film, but it was only after the movie that I looked back and realized the elegance of the story’s title: “Pain and Gain”.  The elegance of the title “Pain and Gain” is seen through the connection of the “Pain” aspect in the way Eckhart Tolle defines the Pain-Body.  While the “Gain” part refers to the structure of the ego and the want for more.  Therefore, if you always want “Gain” and are controlled by the desire for more tangible worth and external value there will be the “Pain” correlated with the suffering presence that the ego brings to the mind.

To understand what I mean as exclusive association with the physical world and the desire for more tangible value, we must understand the difference between external dreams and internal dreams.  Internal dreams have to do with how somebody wants to emotionally feel, and they are inherently linked with intrinsic motivational factors.  The documentary Happy elaborates on internal dreams and how social cooperation, altruistic behavior and compassion all have been empirically shown to be beneficial for human health and happiness.  People who focused more on internal dreams reported less anxiety, less depression and overall more satisfaction with their lives.

On the other hand, people who prescribe to external dreams report more anxiety, more depression and less overall satisfaction with their lives.  External dreams have to do with what somebody wants to become or do, and they are fundamentally associated with money, image and status.  These notions of external dreams are inherently linked with how the second veil of maya plays on the third veil, but let’s not focus too much on the illusions of reality.  The money, image and status aspects of life are valued as external dreams because when everybody looks at these people from the outside they see success.  They must be successful if they have all that money and status, or power, in society.  The problem with the external dreams is the notion of hedonistic treadmill, which says that we become desensitized to the tangible goods and things we do have, and that becomes the benchmark for which we base our want for more off of.  This pattern continues forever, hence the hedonistic treadmill.

Finally, the image part is where the story of Pain and Gain sprouts.  The image has do with how somebody looks, and if they are more beautiful, good looking with less body fat, our society will lead you to believe that is the right image. Mark Wahlberg is a bodybuilder, who lives by the image that bigger is better.  The caption on the billboard for the movie even says “Their American Dream is Bigger than Yours”. The more muscle a bodybuilder can pack on the better, and that idea pattern repeats continuously with no end.  It is structured to never reach contentment because it always wants more, Mark Wahlberg (portraying the character Daniel Lugo) will always want to be bigger and stronger and never really be satisfied with his body or image.  This is where our story begins.

The Movie

The movie starts out with bodybuilder and personal trainer Daniel Lugo (played by Mark Wahlberg) doing sit-ups on top of a roof screaming, “I’m Big, I’m Strong” with every crunch as he does them.  As he walks into the gym he personal trains at he narrates, “The only way to prove yourself is to better yourself.”  The approach to bettering himself for this character is exclusively an external approach, indubitably because he is a body builder.  There is this whole notion that evolves early in the movie about being a “doer” vs. a “don’t-er”; when Danny Lugo says the only way to prove yourself is to better yourself he is talking about doing something.  The difference we can distinguish is doing represents external dreams while being represents internal dreams.

In the movie, Danny Lugo goes to a self-help seminar put on by a man named Jonny Wu (Ken Jeong the hilarious actor from The Hangover).  The take-home advice from the seminar is “do be a doer, don’t be a don’t-er”, and as we read between the lines to see that there is no room for internal dreams, or being something, only doing something.  The seminar ends with Jonny Wu singling out Danny Lugo and grilling him to the question if he is a doer or not.  The scene ends with Danny Lugo jumping up and down and screaming “I’m a doer, I’m a doer!”

Insight from Pain and Gain - I'm a doer

After his newfound motivation from the seminar, Danny Lugo asks his friend in the movie Adrian Doorbal “Don’t you think we deserve better?”  This is a question the ego will always ask the self.  Danny Lugo elaborates, “you are going to need some money to go with that body”, as the need for more external dreams evolves.   It is at this point, with their mind frame fueled by the ego, that the pair of Danny Lugo and Adrian Doorbal hatch up a plan to kidnap and rob Victor Kershaw, one of Danny’s wealthy personal trainer customers.  They recruit one more team member for the criminal plot, and this is where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character is introduced as Paul Doyle, a recent ex-con looking for a clean start, which he does not find with Danny and Adrian.  (How could you have a bodybuilding movie without The Rock?)

The three of them, Danny Lugo, Adrian Doorbal and Paul Doyle, implement a hilarious childlike plot where they dress up like ninjas and show up at Victor Kershaw’s hose to abduct him.  The only problem is there is a dinner party Kershaw is hosting at the moment they try to execute their criminal acts.  So they run away screaming “Abort!” Ha-ha, just like you might have when you were a kid and a plan failed.  Finally, after one more failed attempt, the ninja plans works and they are successful with kidnapping Kershaw.

Insight from Pain and Gain - the ego/pain-bodyTheir plans of clean criminality turn awry when Kershaw smells Danny Lugo’s cologne and thus, can then identify who kidnapped him.  While they hold their abductee the group commits torturous acts to make Kershaw sign away all of his financial worth.  He finally does so, and then Danny Lugo convinces the group that they are going to have to kill him, unless they all want to get caught.  Paul Doyle is then left with the task of getting Victor Kershaw blackout drunk before they kill him.  The movie captions Paul Doyle as the “weak link” of the group because he is a softhearted slightly gullible, almost loveable at times, dimwit who befriends their hostage Kershaw.

There is a scene that plays out where a wasted Victor Kershaw asks his friend Paul Doyle, “Are we alone”?  The setting for this scene is what looks almost like a carnival stage and has the stage title “Garden of Eden”.  This is a sad scene, which there are not many of in the movie, and it struck me as eerie with Kershaw’s words right before his assumed death of “Are we alone” with the setting placed as the Garden of Eden.

Insight from Pain and Gain - The ego/pain-body

The plans to murder Kershaw fail, and although they do crush his skull by running over his face with a car, he lives.  Kershaw attempts to tell his story to the police and they do not believe him because it is so absurd and his blood alcohol level.  Kershaw then pursues the services of a private eye Ed Du Bois III (played by Ed Harris) who at first does not believe Kershaw either, but eventually takes the case.  Ed becomes one of Danny Lugo’s clients for personal training as he investigates, and the story progresses.

The second time the Garden of Eden background comes into play it is Danny Lugo, interestingly enough alone.  As the movie narrates, “Some people say quit while you are ahead, those guys are pussies” Lugo thinks to himself as the ego strengthens its grip on his habitual pattern of thought.  The significance of the Garden of Eden setting being played a second time in the background is perhaps to make the connection between the thought pattern of the ego that Danny Lugo is subject to, and the serpent from the Garden of Eden story with Adam and Eve.  Here I will use Ernest Holmes words to clarify the understanding.

  “The serpent meant the outer rim of spiritual existence; the Life Principle viewed from an isolate and materialistic basis.  The worship of material existence (external dreams), apart from God, cast Adam and Eve from the Garden of Perfection.  The attempt to live in effects, apart from the true cause, always does this” (The Hidden Power of the Bible 2006 p. 112)

With this worship and focus on material existence and tangible goods, it drives Danny to rationalize to himself “those guys are pussies”. Ed Du Bois III tries to convince the police force to apprehend Danny Lugo, Adrian Doorbal and Paul Doyle so they can prevent any more destruction before it happens, but they negate Ed’s advice and stick with the conclusion that Kershaw’s story is bull.  Danny, Adrian and Paul find out that Kershaw went to the cops and when they realize they will not get in trouble for the crimes they have committed, because Kershaw already had told the cops everything and the police did not do anything, they are obviously ecstatic.

Ed Du Bois III warns though, and this is the connection that amplifies my point for drawing the connection to the Pain-Body as Eckhart Tolle articulates it, “These guys are going to get hungry”.  Eckhart Tolle makes the point that the pain-body needs to feed, and it uses psychic energy or time in your conscious thought as food.  What Ed Du Bois III means is their criminal mind frame is going to need to eat to survive by committing criminal acts again.  Ed knows they will act with the pain-body’s influence and behaviors because he has been a detective for a long time and realizes how the ego perpetuates its pattern and fuels the need to be a doer by committing crimes to gain more money, image or status.

As the plot moves forward Danny Lugo and bodybuilding company hatch another plan to steal somebody else’s wealth.  Their next target is a phone sex operator Frank Griga (played by Michael Rispoli) and the criminal activity is less blatant.  Instead of kidnapping, they try to get Frank Griga into a fraudulent investment scheme.  This plan goes rotten for them when Danny Lugo attacks Frank Griga and accidentally kills him.  The reason why Lugo attacked Griga?  “He called me an amateur!” Lugo explains.  This amateur status is offensive to Lugo’s external dreams, so the words from Griga enrages him and then sparks the accidental murder.

Insight from Pain and Gain - The ego/pain-body

The police finally pursue Danny Lugo, Adrian Doorbal and Paul Doyle after Ed provides evidence for their guilt.  Danny Lugo somehow is able to elude the police’s grasp, even after being hit by a car, and escapes to the Bahamas on a speedboat.  Ed one more time deduces that Lugo “is going to get hungry” so they expect Lugo to extract funds from Kershaw’s hidden bank accounts that he had fraudulently gained access to from the previous kidnapping where Kershaw was forced to sign the documents.

The timing of the scene has subtle, specific elegance to how the want for more controls Lugo, and leads to his pain, suffering and demise.  While Lugo is getting the money from the bank, the banker asks Lugo if he would like to look in the safety deposit box.  Lugo hesitates and thinks for a moment, realizing he should be in a hurry, but still chooses to take what is in the safety deposit box.  It is just a bunch of worthless, sentimental for Victor Kershaw stuff.  Right as Lugo discovers that (when he should have already been gone if he had not wanted more) Ed Dubois and the police enter the bank and see Lugo.  Lugo runs away but unfortunately for him this time Kershaw lies in wait of the escape, sees Lugo and crashes a car into a wall with Lugo in between it.  Lugo is finally caught, and the director has the timing of scene elegantly play out for you to insinuate that if he would have left earlier, not looked in the safety deposit box for more external dreams, more money to boost his image and status, then he would have gotten away.


Pain and Gain was a true story that took place in Miami, Florida in the1990’s.  If we critically can think about everything discussed here, it should be clear that inherited dysfunction of the third veil of maya is still prevalent in society today.  The movie is a good one to go and see, but the life lessons will only be enjoyable if experienced as an audience member.  Every story is meant to deliver a message, and the message to be taken from Pain and Gain is that if your life is absorbed with the desire for more, for the gain of external dreams, you will be prisoner to the ego.  When your mind is prisoner to the ego you will also experience the suffering of the Pain-Body that is interwoven with the ego.  The story, if we know how to listen, asks us to awaken from this cycle of the never-ending pattern of Pain and Gain.

By Marc Amos

Mathew Micheletti

~You shall know Truth by the happiness, joy, and peace it brings~ Go within and start knocking on the Door.


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