We will be spending the next few weeks looking at the question of pain, specifically trying to discover what pain wants to give us, what secrets are locked within our pain and what we can learn from them.
One of the few experiences all humans share is pain. For the purposes of this journey, I am going to distinguish between two kinds of pain: slow pain and grow pain.
Slow pain is a given in life.
All of us will experience this kind of pain because things happen that hurt us — disappointment, rejection, heartbreak, loss. It may be something that happened yesterday, but it can also be something that happened years ago.
This kind of pain is essential. We need it. Maybe this sounds a bit surprising, but we need this pain because it is trying to tell us something.
THE MESSAGE OF SLOW PAIN:
Slow pain is telling you to slow down, take it easy, and most importantly, pay attention! It may even sometimes tell us to stop. Stop so that you can pay attention because something important is happening.
Let’s use a physical example. If you wake up one morning with a sore throat, it may be an indication that you are getting the flu. The pain of the sore throat is telling you to pay attention. If you do stop and pay attention to it, listen to the warning to take better care of yourself over the next few days, you are more likely to avoid getting sick. But if you ignore that pain, you could develop a proper flu that will stop you completely.
FEEL THE FEELINGS:
This is how I see slow pain working; it is pain that tells us to slow down and do something. Physical pain is an easy illustration; if you ignore physical pain, it can quickly escalate to something much worse. Now consider the mental, emotional or spiritual pain you sometimes experience.
The message is always the same when it is slow pain, when things are happening to us:
When you get rejected or hurt by someone, this pain will tell you to pay attention. To feel the feelings, to go through those emotions, to take a little better care of yourself over the next few days or weeks. Do what you have to do to work through that pain and to make sense of it. (Sometimes it won’t make sense, which is when you have to pay attention to how that makes you feel and the thoughts it brings up.)
WHEN SLOW PAIN SIMMERS:
Slow pain also means feeling the pain of the past. Maybe it happened yesterday, or maybe it happened ten years ago. The longer we ignore the message of slow pain, the bigger the negative effects become. What negative effects? It stops us from taking action.
Feeling the pain is the only way to release yourself from the past and the way it controls your behaviour in the present.
Thankfully, slow pain is persistent. It will keep on telling you to slow down and pay attention until you do, because it doesn't go away until you feel it.
IGNORING SLOW PAIN:
What is the most common way we avoid feeling slow pain? Anger. We would rather stay angry at a person than feel our slow pain and talk about it.
The longer we avoid feeling slow pain, the longer it affects us in unseen ways. For example, when you avoid talking to someone about something they did that hurt you, you avoid feeling the pain of that hurt. But you also act in an avoidant way with the person who hurt you, which will damage the relationship sooner or later. Once you feel the pain you can take action.
This means that the only way to heal this relationship is for you to feel that slow pain and pay attention to it. It will not be easy! But it will allow you to take action and talk to the other person.
CONSIDER / TAKE ACTION
Are you avoiding pain by avoiding important conversations?
Can you do something about it today?