A famous picture depicts Quang Duc self-immolating himself in protest of the Vietnam War. David Halberstram: "As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound [...]. His face seemed to remain fairly calm until it was so blackened by the flames that you couldn’t make it out anymore." I'm ignoring shock and hormonal responses in this question, as he remained calm during the initial stage of the burning (where these effects are unlikely to have been live). I'm also (perhaps wrongly) assuming that he wasn't under the influence of drugs and didn't have a cognitive impairment that made him unable to feel the pain.
A question like this has been asked before on Quora, but I'm not satisfied by any of the given answers. Specifically:
Based on personal/anecdotal experiences, I'm not convinced that confidence/motivation/conviction or any rationalization is able to trigger this ability.
I also don't see how one can use deliberate practice in this task (i.e., build up tolerance with systematic desensitization or connecting the pain signal with positive thoughts/experiences) without seriously damaging the body.
I'm also not convinced that traditional/standard mindfulness meditation has this kind of efficacy. I remember seeing various efficacy quantities of mindfulness meditation (and therapy) in a meta study and none of them seemed to be at the quantity required to remain calm in response to this extreme stimulus.
I'm also skeptical that detachment is viable in this scenario, given the sheer magnitude of the nociceptive stimulus (also, I was under the impression that Buddhist meditation advises the practitioner to be aware to the pain, not detach from it).
If the explanation is elevated gamma-wave activity, how does one reliably reach this state "on-demand" and how does one maintain it during the endurance of significant nociceptive pain?
I should note that I'm not sure how different the mindfulness-based techniques of today are from the Buddhist meditation practiced by Quang Duc.
Perhaps the research shows that one of the points I'm skeptical about is actually effective in remaining calm in the face of extreme pain. If so, I'd love to hear about it.