10 Things to Know about Pain

Butterfly-Metamorphosis

Pain wants to be recognized. If it isn’t, it will beckon for your attention until it is. Pain doesn’t understand reason or practicality. It needs recognition.

25 years of pushing down pain taught me this. I covered pain up with anything I could find. I escaped it all costs. I couldn’t bear to sit with myself in pain.

Today I write to recognize my pain. I write to acknowledge its presence, to give it attention. I write because my pain deserves to be recognized.

Pain isn’t evil or wrong or selfish; it is necessary. If I choose to ignore my pain, it is because I have identified it as wrong or evil, when it isn’t. Who taught us that pain was bad? Where did we learn that? Pain is necessary. It needs to be felt. It is a part of human nature. It is a part of the human race, even. Some of the greatest transformations on this earth involve pain.

Look at the caterpillar. The change that the caterpillar must endure is extremely painful, but necessary. And look at the freedom that the caterpillar achieves through pain: the freedom to fly.

  1. It shows up in relationships. Pain will often show up in personal relationships. It might look like insecurity, paranoia, or disappointment. It might look like seeking control in a relationship. It might even look like letting your partner have all the control in the relationship. Pain influences the way we interact in relationships. It influences the way that we see the world. If pain is asking for recognition, it might show up in our most intimate connections with others. Let it.
  2. It feels like unresolved conflict. Sometimes pain feels like something missing. It can feel unsettling, or ambivalent. It can feel like something “isn’t quite right”. Often this means that the universe is ready to let you feel something. Then, to allow you to heal something.
  3. It manifests itself physically. Emotional pain can seep into our physical bodies. It can feel heavy and hollow. It can hurt our heads, shorten our breath, and feel like lethargy. Pain demands our attention physically. If your body is feeling a certain way, listen to it. Listen to what it is telling you. Jobs that I wasn’t meant for caused me various physical ailments including chronic headaches, stress, weight gain, and fatigue. My body was trying to tell me something.
  4. It must be recognized before we can move forward. We must recognize pain before we can move forward in a healthy way. Maybe we have to grieve something or someone. Maybe we have to process changing relationships. Maybe we have to accept someone for exactly the way they are in this very moment. We can’t move forward spiritually and emotionally until we allow this pain to exist.
  5. Pain continues to show up even when it has previously been ignored or minimized. If we minimize pain or try to sweep it under the rug, it never goes away. The process of healing begins when we expose our pain. Just because we don’t want to feel something, doesn’t mean that it goes away.
  6. It feels like guilt. If you are feeling guilty, pay attention. Listen to your feelings. Often there is pain underneath guilt. There are feelings of “not good enough,” of “never good enough,” and of rejection. Guilt is a powerful feeling. Listen to it and honor it.
  7. It can be a re-opened wound. Sometimes pain revisits us. Maybe we think we have healed from a particular feeling associated with that person, and then that person says something that triggers us. They bring up old memories and feelings. Our wounds open up again. That’s OK. Let them open up again, it just means they need your attention again to heal.
  8. Pain needs validation. Here it is again. Validate your pain. Talk to a friend, a loved one, or a professional about it. Honor its existence. Say: “I feel you. This hurts. This hurts like hell.” Also acknowledge that you can feel pain, and still be OK.
  9. It feels painful. Shocking, right? Pain hurts. It sucks, sometimes. Sometimes it is easier than others. You often cannot prepare for pain. It arrives unexpectedly. Invite your pain inside–just don’t let it stay there too long.
  10. Pain doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t, I promise. Even when you are sure that it is permanent –it isn’t, nothing is. It changes. Time heals. We heal.
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