What’s hurting you the most right at this very moment?
Is it a physical ailment? Did you break a bone? Do you have a headache?
Or, are you hurting mentally and emotionally? Is your heart broken? Are you anxious, tired and stressed?
Are you grieving the loss of a loved one?
As you ask yourself these questions, feel that pain. Feel where it hurts deep deep down inside. Feel when it hurts – think about when it started and then think about the bliss of it ending. Then go back to the middle – the in between of being in pain and not being in pain – and, as convoluted as it sounds, be cognizant and aware of the pain… and relish in it.
We easily forget to feel our pain… because who in their right mind wants to, right? We push it aside until it festers and blisters and then comes to an agonizing fruition.
Take that mental image and do with it what you’d like. Kind of gross to me, but anyway…
I’m taking you through this emotional and hurtful ride for a reason. I’ve learned that there’s immense beauty in feeling pain. There’s beauty in realizing we’re broken and human and imperfect and we have the ability to feel.
It’s easy to run and hide from the pain. It’s easy to blame on our pain on others or external circumstances. But, ultimately, it’s our pain and we must own it. We must own how we internalize and rationalize our pain and how we’ll press forward with life.
Let’s equate this to running a race.
(P.S. – When’s your next race? Have you signed up for one yet? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you?)
You’re standing at the starting line. Jittery with excitement, ready to get running, and ultimately ready for it to be over. Your mental story might sound something a little like this, “Why did I sign up for this? What am I doing to myself? I really have to pee… How long do you think this’ll take? Wow, he looks super fit and fast. I’m going to be leading the caboose on this one.”
Then the whistle blows and the race starts.
Everything feels great at first. Your adrenaline is pumping. You’re whizzing past other runners. You’re relishing in the moment.
And then you feel it. At first, it’s subtle and dull, but it’s there, right there on the left side underneath your rib cage. You’re cramping. You try not to freak out and think about it too much, but it’s getting worse. A few minutes go by and it’s no longer a dull pain, but a gut wrenching twisting of your insides. You put your arms up above your head, because you remember someone somewhere telling you that’s what you do when cramping happens, but it doesn’t help.
What do you do?
You can walk. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, your pride gets in the way and there’s no way you’re slowing down. So, you face the pain. You tell yourself, “Well, there’s not much I can do about you, pain, so I’m going to embrace you and continue on anyway.”
Easier said than done. I probably would’ve been like, “Oh, and that’s my cue to exit. See ya, I’m out of here.”
But let’s say, for instance, you chose to embrace the pain during that race, and how can you do that in real life? And, more importantly, why you should…
As we took an introspective look at the beginning of this post, we saw that pain comes in many, many forms. And it’s entirely possible to feel different types at once (I’m speaking from experience. I am, by no means, a specialist of any sort in pain).
Where is your pain coming from? Where does it hurt the most and how did it come about?
Take the time to analyze your pain. Sometimes we think we’re hurt by one thing, but we’re actually holding onto a past pain and associating the two occurrences. That’s only one example, though. Take the time to figure out exactly what caused your pain.
Next, once you’ve discovered where your pain has come from. Take time to feel it. What I mean by that is if it’s a physical pain acknowledge it, even if it hurts. If it’s emotional pain, heck, cry, scream – do whatever you need to do to feel it.
Then, and this is the hardest part, accept it.
Accept that you’re in pain or you have pain or you’ve been hurt.
I’ve found that when I’m hurting, I sometimes tend to catastrophize my pain. What does catastrophize mean? It means when you’re faced with something you, in a sense, blow it way out of proportion. What does that mental story sound like?
“Oh my gosh, I’m in so much pain. Oh my gosh, this is awful. Oh my gosh, how did this happen to me? And why? And will I ever get over this?”
You will be fine.
The Next Steps
Now, once you’re done panicking, because it probably will happen, what can you do to get through and overcome the pain?
Physical pain – well, you should probably go to the doctor, but I’m not a doctor and you know your pain, so proceed accordingly. Then do what’s necessary. And read this past post on how to work through the mental pain of being in physical pain.
Emotional pain – what are you passionate about? For me, overcoming emotional pain happens through running. But, that’s not everyone, so figure out what you need to cure you emotionally. I went through a really tough time at the end of last year, and to get over that I was told over and over to “find hobbies.” My rebuttal was, “I have enough hobbies.” And then, I found myself negatively relishing in my pain. Once I was done throwing myself a pity party, I started finding and taking on new hobbies – like ARC Running and spending more time on this blog – and it completely transformed the way I looked at myself and what I had gone through. I gained confidence and I accepted what I had been through because it acted as a springboard to finding what I’m truly passionate about.
They’re small steps. But, they’re steps forward.
So, let’s recap what you need to do in order to get over and through and under and around the pain:
- Figure out where the pain is coming from.
- Feel the pain.
- Accept the pain, or what has happened that has caused the pain.
- Figure out how to move forward.
All of this is so, so much easier said than done. But, if you make a continuous effort to work through your pain, ultimately you will get through it.
I have never, ever been faced with a terminal illness and I cannot fathom what it must feel like to go through something that catastrophic. I am fully aware that this post may sound idealistic and theoretical and all rainbows and butterflies. I realize, when the world is falling down around oneself, this practice may simply be unattainable.
The Pretty Bow To Wrap Things Up
I am sharing this with you, because I have tried it in my own life – both with physical pain and emotional pain.
Because of the emotional pain and stress I went through this year (well, that’s what the doctors say it’s from), I developed physical pain that has altered, in a sense, how I live my life. It makes running difficult, causes me anxiety, and makes it hard to sleep and do other life essential tasks.
I found this week that I started to let the pain “get to me.” Meaning, I was becoming angry, bitter, and frustrated. I was angry that I couldn’t focus on my work and writing. And I was frustrated with myself and the situation and found that I was becoming inward and ungrateful for all of the blessings that are in my life.
Then I listened to this podcast with BJ Miller, The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths To Learn How To Live, who lost three limbs in a terrible accident. I heard how grateful he was for all that he had and his demeanor throughout life was something that shocked and woke me up out of my pity party.
I wanted his happiness.
So, I tried the above practice and I found that I was slowly coming around and beginning to be at peace with the pain I was feeling.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been depressed or felt apathetic, but when you’re in a state like that it’s very common to feel absolutely nothing. You want to shout, “At least let me feel something to know I’m still alive!”
Feeling pain hurts, but how wonderful is the human condition that we can feel pain and know we’re alive? In hindsight, it surely beats feeling nothing at all.
When I recognized that the pain was altering my perspective on life, I started working on methods on how to cope with the pain. And, if you take away anything from this post, the biggest thing I changed was my mindset and how I looked at pain.
It’s not a bullet-proof method. But, it helps. It helps you wake up in my morning and be thankful and happy for all that you have, despite what you’ve been through.
And then, you can bring that peace and light to others, and isn’t that what we’re here for? To help, love, support, and encourage one another?
Well, that’s what I believe, anyway.