Pain is inevitable. You can try to avoid it all your life, but it will show up at some point in your life with a surprise. You can’t stay untouched by pain forever, but knowing how to deal with it does bring some relief during its unexpected occurrences.
Dealing with Physical Pain
Have you noticed when you are physically injured, the more you think about the pain and look at the injury, the more pain you feel? However, if your friends come over and you get involved in a happy conversation with them, the perception of pain vanishes. The injury is still there, but somehow the pain disappears. This shows that it’s completely under the mind’s control if it wants to experience the pain or not.
A pain asks for heightened awareness and proper care of the injury. When you encounter pain, the first thing to do is locate and understand your pain well. Where does the pain feel? Is it in the muscle, or it’s coming from the bone beneath it? Is it in a joint or a connected ligament? Which movements tend to increase the pain, and which postures bring relief?
Some people panic when they feel pain, and some people ignore the pain until it’s severe. Both of these extremes add extra, unnecessary pain to your life. You need to feel the pain and understand it. Don’t run away from it. BUT. Once you’ve taken the required measures, don’t sit with it. Carry on with the other tasks of the day.
In the moments of pain, you have to work on a new skill – a skill to be aware of the place of the pain so that you don’t twist it in the wrong direction, and at the same time keep your attention on other day-to-day work. This combination of awareness of the pain and attention at work will prevent your pain from becoming an annoying experience.
Sitting down with the pain and thinking that it’s your whole life is the worst kind of suffering. You need to realize that this pain is just a tiny part of your life. You’ve focused all your attention on that small part, so it seems that it’s your whole life. Don’t let the pain fill your entire mind.
Dealing with Emotional Pain
What’s mentioned above for physical pain goes for emotional pain as well. Perhaps, I am entering a risky territory here. Severe emotional pain and psychological trauma can lead to clinical depression and anxiety. One must take professional help when needed, just like you’d do in case of chronic physical pain.
Along with professional help, take help from your own mind too. After all, it’s YOUR body and mind; no one knows it better than you. A doctor or therapist can only guess what’s going on inside; but only you can actually feel what’s going on inside. So make use of it. Try to inspect the cause and effects of those feelings.
In case of emotional pain, watch which patterns of your thoughts are repeating? Which thoughts trigger the whole series of depressive thoughts? Does it come from seeing or being around something specific? Or to a particular time? How your body is reacting to these thoughts – observe your posture, breathing and heart rate.
Once you get curious about your pain and start to explore it, you will realize that you are not the pain. You are the one observing the pain. You are separate from your pain. Your entire life is not that pain; it’s just a small part of your life. Once you experience this separation from your pain, it won’t occupy your mind. Now you can just be aware of it and attend other things in life.
In the case of mental pain, remember that it’s always self-inflicted. External things, events, and people can cause you physical pain; only your own mind can cause you mental pain. An undesirable event might have happened to you at one point in time, but it’s your mind that’s reliving that event again and again. The event has stopped, but your pain has not because your mind is continually imagining it in a loop. You can blame the event for the pain it caused you in the past, but the pain you are experiencing right now is because of your mind.
Just like dealing with physical pain requires a heightened awareness of the body, dealing with emotional pain requires a heightened awareness of your mind and emotions. Only through an honest introspection you can understand what you are going through.
The goal is not to rationalize yourself out of the pain. The goal is to understand it. Feel it. Cry if necessary. But don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it unnecessarily relives the moment in your head. Don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it starts to make you think that this pain is your entire life. Don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it tries to convince you that the entire universe is conspiring against you. None of that is happening in reality; it’s just your mind playing games with you.
Your Attitude towards Pain matters
We don’t want to run away from pain, but we don’t want to add more pain too. That’s why learning lessons from your pain is important. If you just try to get rid of the pain quickly, then you miss the most important step in the process – learning your lessons. As a result, you keep encountering similar pains in the future. By not learning the lessons, you are adding more pain to your future self.
Painful moments are your opportunity to take more care of the aspects of your life that are currently overlooked. Inside the pain is hiding an opportunity to grow in your life. And your attitude towards your pain determines whether this hidden opportunity sprouts or not. If you treat the pain as your enemy, you’ll look for quick fixes to get rid of it. But if you look at it as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of an aspect of your life, you’ll take completely different steps. Then you won’t just pass through your pain; you’ll grow through your pain. Your pain will make you wiser and stronger than you were before that pain.
In the process of recovering from physical pain, you’ll develop a better understanding of your body. And in the process of recovering from emotional pain, you’ll develop a better understanding of your mind. Your emotional turmoil will get you in touch with your feelings. You’ll start mastering your mind in the process of healing from mental pain. But if you don’t accept the pain and try to apply quick fixes, you miss out on all these benefits. And the pain is more likely to reappear.
Pain is a critical life-process
Our body is a brilliant system. It knows when something gets out of sync. And pain is its signaling mechanism. Pain tells you that something is not working the way it’s supposed to; it tells you that some aspect of your life needs more care. If you don’t feel the pain, you’ll never know when and where things are going wrong in your life.
Isn’t it strange that pain is such an inevitable part of our life, but no one teaches us to live with it? We are taught to suppress it, run away from it, and apply short-term band-aids on it. But we are not taught to understand it and accept it as a part of life.