The pain does not have to be intense or relentless, but learning does indeed hurt to a degree. If no pleasure or gain is taken by it, then only the pain is left - witness many peoples' recollections of their school days. If one can anticipate the pleasure or gain to be had from the stages of accomplishment, that can be used to soften the crying neurons as they struggle to master new multidimensional shapes.
(Note: this rapidly migrated to becoming the bridge over at "Shopworn".)
© Huw Powell