Oh, how we hate being in pain. Pain is the great nemesis, the most feared and consistent motivator on the planet. It is our interest in avoiding or decreasing our pain that controls our choice of partners, activities, addictions, and more.
What we fail to understand is that pain can be a good thing. When I step on a hot coal in my bare feet, pain immediately warns me of potentially serious injury. Without physical pain, my foot would be burned much more severely by the hot coal. Similarly, a persistent headache can warn me of a tumor growing in my head, perhaps in time to save my life.
Investigate the Cause of Pain
It's critical that we investigate the cause of our pain, rather than simply treating the pain itself. The latter approach is potentially very dangerous. What if I take pain medication for my brain tumor? I'll achieve relief for a while, but then the tumor increases in size, eventually getting to the point where it can't be treated.
Pain is simply INFORMATION, an indication that something is wrong and needs our attention. This is true of both physical and emotional pain.
We confuse ourselves with too many words. Every time we're feeling hurt, afraid, angry, frustrated, or lonely, these are all just expressions of pain. We must recognize the common thread of pain and then choose to treat the cause of the pain, rather than covering up or temporarily diminishing each individual expression of it.
If we don't recognize the true cause of our pain, it's very unlikely that we'll ever address it effectively. Most of us don't have the first clue, for example, that our anger of today is really rooted in the traumatic experiences we had when we were three years old, or four, or six. To ignore these roots is to ensure that we will never truly be free of the pain.
The Problem of Treating Only the Pain
There are so many ways to treat only our pain. Drugs and alcohol are particularly popular, because the effect is so immediate and predictable, and because they are so universally available. Sex is another great pain medication, providing not only pain relief but a brief and powerful pleasure. More subtle are the socially approved pain relievers, like money, manipulating people for approval, and success at work. People even seek approval and a sense of worth—thereby diminishing their pain—with "good things" like devotion to family and church.
All these approaches actually DO deliver a temporary relief from pain, but the treatment of the pain alone leaves us with several problems:
- The cause of the pain is untreated and almost always gets worse.
- Because the cause remains, we are now trapped in an endless cycle of treating the pain, waiting for it to return (often in minutes), and then treating the pain again.
- As long as we are treating the pain, our ability to identify the cause is impaired. While we are eliminating the pain, we can’t hear the information about the cause that only pain can give us.
As long as we're using ANYTHING to treat our pain, we will see the cause less clearly. The solution? Don't use anything to blunt the pain. Nothing. That is a terrifying plan for most of us to accept. We can't stand pain, and yet we simply must endure it in order to identify the cause. As we endure the pain, however, we also learn that it won't kill us. We learn that we don't really require the many forms of pain relief we've always believed we couldn't live without—to which we have become addicted.
The Blessings of Pain
Our entire lives change when we recognize pain as information. No longer do we see pain as unfair or as a punishment. No longer do we require God to remove it. C.S. Lewis even said, "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Regrettably, pain is regarded as untouchable by most of us. If we're in pain, we're almost always offended at the possibility that anyone would dare to question our judgments about our pain. Unconsciously, we believe that our pain places us in the near-holy position of victimhood, where we have a divine right to sympathy, support, and cooperation.
But pain is NOT a holy state. Again, pain is information. What can we learn from it? Most of the time, we will be well served by considering one or more of the following messages. When we're hurting:
- We're CHOOSING to feel like victims, rather than considering the pain or circumstances of other people.
- We're failing to remember that either we were already in pain before the current "painful event," or we've been laden with past wounds that brought us right to the edge of pain.
- We're invariably accepting a false belief or judgment, which immediately leads to misguided emotions and behaviors.
- We're almost always controlled by a desire for other people to alleviate our pain, rather than to learn how we can genuinely eliminate our own.
- We're reacting to decades of past injuries, not just what we believe is causing our pain in this moment.
- We're selfish. We care primarily about ourselves and how we can alleviate our pain.
- We're self-indulgent.
- Our pain makes us deaf and blind to the truth about ourselves and others.
- We're demanding for attention to be presented in a certain way, usually self-defeating.
- We're never grateful for the love and other positive conditions we do have.
Pay attention to your pain. Ask yourself if you're experiencing any of the beliefs and judgments expressed above. Be willing to listen to the real answers, rather than justifying your present pain and reactions. Consider asking for guidance from people wiser than yourself.
If you're willing to learn, your responses to pain will change dramatically, and—perhaps more important—the nature and severity of the pain itself will change as you find the Real Love that addresses the root of almost all pain.
Find Real Love and learn how to change your pain to peace