What Our Pain Tells Us – Part 2
by Rob Brookler
Pain is not a punishment. It’s not personal.
One of the ways we elevate our pain beyond the simple human reaction that it is, is by interpreting our pain or loss as a punishment or a sign of failure. We see the pain – and the events leading to it – as personal. And though these events may have been out of our control or despite our best efforts, it becomes something we did. And the pain becomes something we somehow deserve.
This is an easy trap to fall into, and one we must watch for. Often our pain or distress will indeed “hook” into our old wounded beliefs and fears about ourselves and our lives. So, for instance, that painful break-up becomes a “sign” that we’re not lovable or not attractive enough. Or losing our job or that opportunity we were counting on becomes more evidence that the world is against us.
And by giving these events this extra meaning – by using them to judge ourselves and letting them feed our old fears – we transform our difficulties into a “theme.” And we give new life and weight to our pain.
The way out of this sneaky, but very common trap is simply to watch for this “hooking” mechanism. It’s sometimes subtle, but usually not that difficult to spot. So, when our current “difficulties” begin to fuel our old wounded beliefs, our job is to stop … and consciously disentangle. We do not need to actually resolve these old wounds and fears. It’s really just a matter of identifying that old fear or self-judgment and denying the connection. There’s actually a valuable bonus to doing this. By seeing that old limiting belief about ourselves and consciously denying it this new “fuel,” we actually disempower that belief.
Again, we must remember and reaffirm that the difficult experience is not designed to hurt or punish us. Our lessons are never vindictive. Our pain is not telling us we failed.
What our pain does tell us
We said at the outset of this discussion that we tend to be “one with” our comfort. The problem with this tendency – the problem with being so keyed to our comfort – is that we will always have some amount of discomfort. At any given time – even in the “best” of times – there will be some internal or external source of challenge or distress. Far from being a sign of failure, these areas of distress are actually a healthy symptom of our growth. How is this so? Because every day we are growing – growing stronger, becoming more of who we are. This growth, however, is not uniform. And those parts of us that haven’t “caught up” with our progress – aspects of ourselves, areas of our life, even parts of our body – will show signs of distress.
It’s a bit like a teenager growing out of his clothing. If we get him the next-size shirt and pants, but forget to get him roomier shoes, his feet will start to ache. Likewise does our discomfort show us those places where we’re growing out against something that limits us. In the context of our personal growth, that something may be a wounded belief about ourselves or a fear that holds us back … or it may be something more concrete, like a constricting workplace situation or a stalled relationship.
So, for instance, as our sense of self and self-worth grows stronger, that job that served us just fine for many years starts to become unfulfilling, even a source of irritation. Or as a key relationship grows deeper and closer, we come up against some old wounded beliefs or judgments about ourselves that would keep us distanced from others. In this way, our discomfort signals where our growth is needing to extend. And the pain shows us not where something is broken, but where our support, healing, and attention is needed.
Listening to our pain
Of course, when such an area has needed, tried, but failed to get our attention for some time, the distress can grow in order to force our attention. In other words, if we ignore an area that is “behind” – especially as our overall growth continues to speed ahead – the disparity widens until it becomes so pronounced that the imbalance triggers a painful crisis.
We see this in our larger world – which grows so rapidly, but so unevenly – when an isolated or impoverished area or nation is hit by a natural disaster. The tragedy and loss draws global attention, resources, and caring that not only meet the immediate need, but also end up revealing and addressing the longer-standing imbalances – lack of opportunity, poverty, crime, despotism. And in this way, the more “developed” world helps a “developing” region gain balance and begin to rise to some parity.
Of course, it is by heeding the message of our pain that we avoid these crises … and ensure that all the various aspects of ourselves and our lives do keep pace with our progress. And if we can begin to see our distress not as an enemy, not a punishment, but as an affirmation of this unfolding growth, we will leave our pain behind us all the sooner. And, with time, we will move into better balance with our growth and expansion … and experience it more confidently and comfortably.
The experiences that do afford us our greatest growth will typically come with some discomfort. This is not some grand flaw or injustice. Our pain is not a punishment. Some amount of pain is inescapable in that we must leave part of ourselves behind when we grow. And we will feel this loss. But knowing and treating this distress as the incidental piece of this transformational process, as the part we let go, we will move through to discover this new part of ourselves – that precious new part that we keep.
All this being said, there will be times when our loss is great and our pain is profound. At these times, we cannot necessary expect to find it easy or natural to “release” our pain. We must exercise some patience with ourselves and our “mourning” process. And when our pain is great, we must also know that we are not alone in our distress. Pain is never telling us we are not loved. And when we can mourn our losses and feel our sorrow and know still that we are loved, we have truly honored what we have lost. And we’ve opened to healing … and opened to what is meant next to fill this place in our lives and in our hearts.
For a full list of audio meditations to complement this article, click audio meditations home.
Copyright 2010 Planetwide Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.Meditations2Go.com.
Disclaimer: All content on this website, including texts, articles, and audio meditation recordings, is general information, and is not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, or other professional advice. It is the responsibility of the user to evaluate the completeness or usefulness of any information, opinion, advice or other content available through the Meditations2Go website and products.BACK TO FULL LIST OF ARTICLES