This Is What You Do With Your Pain

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Pain is a universal human experience. It comes in different forms. There’s physical – banging your toe on a sharp edge, holding a plank for three minutes, giving birth. There’s emotional – unrequited love, loneliness in a crowded place, grief over a loved one. We were born into a world of pain. Heck, we came into this world yelling, crying, and screaming. It’s almost as if we were warned then, that at least a part of our lives would be spent feeling much of the same way. Maybe less yelling, crying, and screaming. But pain doesn’t go away. Pain is always present.

The presence of pain, however, is unequal, objectively. This is not to diminish any pain felt at all, but rather to put our lives into perspective. Which of course is difficult to do in our moments of vulnerability and weakness; these moments have a tendency to consume us in a way that always feels brand new. It’s funny if you think about it. Because if there’s something we ought to get used to – it’s pain. But somehow, we never do. Maybe we learn to cope better. But we never get used to pain.

And because we never get used to pain, our bodies and brain work to protect us against it. If you’ve ever been through a traumatic experience, you know this very well. Your brain doesn’t process the events like they happened, your brain processes it to protect you. It’s one of the reasons why memories, even vivid ones, are said to be fictional. Our very make-up as human beings, despises pain. And yet life itself insists that it is a part of the human experience.

I think one of the ironies of our lives especially in an era where we all have so much access to each other, is that on the one hand, we have a tendency to want to showcase a good life, a life ready-made for a happy ending. And then on the other hand, many of us have a very real desire for others to know that we have been in pain; as if our pains are the things that make us unlike everybody else. We perceive a self in which we become special because of these pains. We contradict our desire to be seen as good and whole all the time, with a desire to be unique because of our pains.

But in reality whenever pain confronts us, most of us try to run away from it. Maybe because the intensity of these feelings in the given moment always feels like it is more than we can handle. Pain always feels too much to bear, and if it didn’t, it would be something else. And so we run far, we pretend as much as possible, and we abuse things we shouldn’t simply because we don’t want to feel that feeling. Are we afraid that if we do feel that way, that is all we will become?

The truth we forget is that our pains aren’t unique or special. Whether it’s grief or heartbreak or disappointment – we have all felt it. And those aren’t the things that separate any of us from each other. In fact those are the things that make us all understand each other better. Because those are the things that make our humanity real to each other. It is where love begins and it is where peace is cultivated.

Don’t run away from your pain. It always finds you. Don’t make it the reason you abuse anything or anyone. You’ll only hurt a lot longer. I think the only thing that works is to remember that all pain is temporary; all pain eventually passes. And maybe it’s best to just sit with the it patiently, and in compassion. Because you won’t always feel like this – the pain does go away. And I think it is when we have the courage to accept the pain for what it is, that is also when our healing begins. TC mark

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