Is your pain something to be experienced, worked through or overcome? Or is your pain a tool?
Not everyone wants to heal.
In fact, for some people, their pain can become a tool to use (against or upon others) rather than an experience to overcome. I see this all of the time in my Counseling practice. Youth will use their childhood issues to blame their parents for their current addiction, criminal behavior or aggressiveness. Parents will rage at their teenagers rather than acknowledge that (like everyone else…) they have been less than perfect.
In life, healing is optional. Not everyone signs up to do the work.
I used to think that pain was something to be avoided at all costs. I shudder when I write this, because I know that I caused myself years of unnecessary suffering. When I learned to accept my pain and love myself through the process, through the experience, it changed me. Most days, I have more peace. But other days, the demons still visit me. But rather than taking over my moods, they are less powerful. My relationship with my demons, my pain, has changed.
Addressing your pain is difficult and may take longer and be more challenging than you wish. More than once it will toss your guts into swells that will feel eerily like an unending emotional roller-coaster. But the roller coaster will eventually slow. You will have more days where your feet touch ground and the clouds clear, blue.
Pain can be something we avoid or numb. Pain can become a tool… or even a weapon fashioned into sharp blades of blame, anger, justification and attack. Inside we hurt, but rather than face our experience, we lash out.
It can feel natural to go to war with our pain or with other people, or to wall ourselves off in self-protection or to walk away and engage in behaviors that numb and avoid. In life, healing and growth really is optional.
At times, it can feel impossible to wade through the pain caused by abuse, rejection, divorce, betrayal, addiction or mental illness. It is natural to want to fix it, fixate on it, float away from it all, or fight and war with it or with other people in your life. But we can learn a different approach to our pain: pain can also be accepted.
Acceptance does not mean putting up with or resigning yourself to anything. Acceptance is about embracing life, not merely tolerating it. Acceptance literally means “taking what is offered.” It doesn’t mean giving up or admitting defeat; it doesn’t mean just gritting your teeth and bearing it. It means opening yourself to your present reality – acknowledging how it is, right here and now, and letting go of the struggle with life as it is in this moment… Acceptance is like finding a firm foot hold. It’s a realistic appraisal of where your feet are and what condition the ground is in. It doesn’t mean that you like being in that spot, or that you intend to stay there. Russ Harris
Acceptance is not a blissful cure-all. It is about embracing the life that you have rather than tolerating your experience. It is not giving up, but it is engaging with our lives as they are right now.
So here is your homework: Take a minute and consider how you approach your pain: Do you try to fix it? Fixate on it? Float away or numb it? Or fight it or other people? And is this something you are satisfied with?
If you enjoyed this article, you may want to see some of my other work:
I write articles that talk about the kind of changes I am trying to make in my own life. I hope that my writing also helps you. My topics include addiction and mental health recovery, relationships, and personal growth. I work as an Addiction Therapist, an Editor for the Good Men Project and freelance writer, and Adjunct Professor at City University, Edmonton. But what is most important is that I have a family and I am in recovery from depression and anxiety. My mental health experiences are part of my personal University degree, but they do not define me.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Shay Sowden