What do you do with your pain?

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Each person experiencies pain or hurt in a different way. What we collectively know as pain is one of the most subjective things there are. I sometimes think that we came up with this word to have some common ground, something to talk about or share, so that others could try to “understand” what we are so ineffectively trying to describe.

Not only are the ways in which we go through pain very different, but also the things that causes us pain are incredibly diverse. Of course there might be some common ground in that most people find things like failure, or loss, or death, really painful. But as with physical ailments, even in these situations, we all have varying pain thresholds.

And we also react to pain in many different ways. Some people try to avoid pain at all costs, thus actively avoiding anything that can cause them suffering, from very simple things, like making small decisions, to larger ones, like committing to a relationship or admitting love in their lives. Some people are in pain but they deny it, sometimes even unconsciously, and they live their lives in a half-shadow, unable to be happy because they are also unable to admit that they’re in pain, thus making any change impossible. Others are so scared of being in pain that they resort to an addiction of some sort. This, of course, can be drugs, but it might be other things as well, such as an addiction to shopping, sex, reckless actions, etc.

Now that I’m writing this it seems to me that these series of posts are about all the shadowy things in ourselves, the ones that we cannot get rid of. We can’t get rid of pain, either. I think that we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, afraid of pain and suffering. It’s only natural, after all. Most of us would not leave our hand in a flame, and neither would we leave our souls or emotions there, if we could avoid it.

In some circumstances we can avoid feeling or being hurt. We might listen to our Inner Voice that is telling us that some situation will end up badly and we might decide to steer clear of it before it’s too late. We can avoid a fight, a bad relationship when we see a red flag, getting into a business deal we feel is not going to be right for us. If we avoid the pain, this is great.

We cannot always avoid it, though. Sometimes too many intense emotions are involved and we might not find it that easy to just run away and say no. Some other times we might not even realise we’re in too deep until it is too late. Or perhaps our pain was caused by one of the inevitable losses of life. Or we might be in the midst of a sorrowful situation triggered by others, and let’s face it, we cannot control what other people do.

Whatever has caused our situation, there are still things that we can do to feel better about it, to deal with it more positively and to extract the gold out of the situation.

The first, and most difficult step, is to accept that pain is going to come into your life. We need to embrace sorrow as an integral part of our human experience and as something inevitable. Because of this inevitability, the best that we can do is to be prepared, to brace ourselves for the possibility of encountering moments in life when we will be surrounded by these feelings of grief. When we accept this inevitability, we can be stronger in the awareness that these difficult circumstances are a part of life, and that we are not alone in our misery, regardless of how personal and subjective it might be.

The second step is to open ourselves to the hurts that are already part of our experience. It is very important to prepare for what might come in the future, but it is equally important to learn to deal with what is already living inside us. You might want to ask yourself these questions: What caused this pain? Why do I find it painful? What have I done with my pain? Have I faced it, avoided it, run away from it?

Once you have answered these questions, you will be able to determine how your approach to your difficult emotions is helping or hindering your well-being, your happiness, your mental and emotional health. Especially if you find yourself avoiding your pain, by some sort of addiction or by not being fully present in your life, you will need to take some action.

Again, you need to acknowledge your sorrow. This can be devastating for some of us, so take your time. But you need to grab a chair, and sit down in front of your grief. Every day, sit a little bit closer. Don’t do anything, just look. If it gets too overwhelming, come back again tomorrow.

When you feel ready, talk to this pain. Ask it questions. Say how you feel, about what caused it, but also how you feel about this feeling of grief or sadness. Is it depleting you? Are you scared of it? By doing this, little by little, you will realise that while this feeling is a part of you, it doesn’t have to dominate your whole existence. It can have a name and a presence in your life, because it is part of your emotional landscape, and an integral part of being human, but it is not you. You are not your pain, or any other of the emotions that you might have that disempower you, that keep hurting you or that drag you down or back.

Navigating our hurts is an important skill, and one that can be a real gift in our lives. As I said, your pain is not you, but it is a part of you, and as such it is essential that you integrate it into who you are, that you learn its lessons and recognise its importance and its place.

You need to be able to access your grief when you need to, or when you decide to. But don’t stay in that room. There are many other rooms in the house that is you, and it is crucial that you take possession of this house and that you inhabit this and all the other rooms as well. You will have your favourite parts, of course, but owning everything will make you stronger, more mature, more rounded. And you will be able to feel pain as deeply as necessary, without being at its mercy.

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