Every day of our lives we are bombarded with remedies for pain – physical pain, emotional pain, mental and spiritual pain – to make it disappear. But what if our pain is trying to tell us something important?
Perhaps you have a chronic headache that you medicate with pain relievers all the time. Even the pain reliever bottles tell you that if the symptoms persist you should see a doctor. But rather than get in the habit of shutting out pain in the first place, consider an alternative approach for every kind of pain – physical, mental emotional and spiritual.
Familiarize yourself with the circumstances surrounding your discomfort. Get to know that headache, for example. Does it usually start in a particular area? When does it appear? Is it related to activities or foods you’re eating? Does it start when you’ve spent an hour or so working under fluorescent lights? Or is it triggered by stress? Once you’ve gotten acquainted with the patterns and nature of your headache, you’ll have some ideas about what to do next to address the cause, whether it’s changing your light bulbs or seeing a doctor to learn about migraines. Use the same process with your emotional, mental and spiritual pain.
There’s another problem with shutting down, blocking out and generally pretending your pain doesn’t exist, especially if it’s emotional pain. It doesn’t actually go away! Picture your mind and your psyche as a big house, with lots of closets… most of which are full of accumulated, rotting junk. That’s where you’ve hidden all the unresolved emotional pain since you were little and they told you to turn out the light, or stop sniveling, or grow up… and those closets are often so full that if you open the door the contents will come gushing out on top of you – old grudges, childhood terrors, betrayals and more.
Declutter emotional buildup
What’s built up in those closets daily affects how you respond to the world and what you expect out of life. If you want to come to terms with your emotional pain, to free up the enormous amount of energy it takes to hold it at bay and afterward to enjoy life more, why not do some spring cleaning? Let out those ghosts in the closets, and then get acquainted with them, one by one. Get to know the source of your sadness, or pessimism, or commitment phobia, or fear of abandonment. Use meditation, journaling, or any of the countless self-help techniques available these days, and you are likely to learn some surprising things!
Perhaps you know you’re in pain because you broke up with your lover. That’s so obvious, you think, so what’s to learn? That’s a universally accepted reason for emotional pain. But there still may be something to learn. Ask yourself if you were happy in the relationship. Maybe you realize that you weren’t, and had even been thinking of moving on. In that case, why the pain? Because you’ll be embarrassed in front of your friends? Nah, you say, they’ve been wanting you to dump your lover for ages. And then the light bulb goes on. A part of you believes that the breakup means you’re unlovable, that you’ll never find happiness in a relationship. Okay, now you’ve gotten to the core of it and arrived at the place where the real journey begins, where you can get to know your pain and follow its path to wisdom and healing.
Sort it out
When you’re dealing with stuff from your past, it’s particularly important to look at it from the viewpoint of who you are now. That alone can bring a tremendous shift! It’s also important to recognize when you need help and another viewpoint, whether it be a counselor, a close friend or a self- help book dealing with your challenges.
But remember that this isn’t about getting rid of pain. It’s about letting the pain show you how to honor yourself and all your needs, about mining the wisdom hidden in the dark corners of your psyche, and clearing the rubble out of your path to a happier, and – as a side benefit – less painful, future.
So the next time pain shows up in your life, you can welcome it as a teacher and motivator rather than – well, just a pain!
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