Dealing with Pain

Life is challenging by design.

It is supposed to make us stronger and help us clarify what we want. I have heard it said that life is supposed to be fun. It is fun when you are good at it. I knew a girl that took the SAT three times and each time she received a perfect score on the Math but fell short on the English. She said the math section was fun. For most of us, math is difficult. Life becomes fun when we are good at it. For most of us, a lot of the time, life seems difficult.

There are plenty of theories on how to be happy.

Deep down many of us assume that when we get “that thing” happiness will begin. That thing could be the perfect weight, job, partner, money or some “thing” that we currently do not think we have. The problem with the happiness by the “acquirement” method is that eventually whatever we “get” bores us, often within minutes after we get it. We need to keep “getting,” setting up an endless cycle of chasing and catching.

Another way we chase happiness is to find it in a bottle. We are given pills to bring up our emotions, bring down our emotions, even out our emotions or to simply take the edge off. Of course there are times when medication is necessary. I understand that people with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other mental illnesses do need a pharmaceutical response. However, we have not, as a society, poured as much money, time and effort into researching how to heal as much as we have with pharmaceutical approaches which merely suppress the negative triggers.

Everything else is called “holistic” or “alternative.” They are not mainstream and they are certainly not pursued first.

Our first instinct in dealing with emotional pain is usually to find ways to feel better, not to figure out the cause. We can find ways to mask the pain, but eventually, we need to look for the root cause. Often, the best way to get through pain is to sit with it, listen to it and learn from it. It takes courage to be willing to do this. Especially when practically every television commercial or advertisement will offer you countless easy ways to get a “quick fix” in life. Society is very slow in admitting that mental anguish is a real thing that requires a real answer. I know in my children’s school young people are still not willing to admit that they go to therapy. It may not be as taboo as it was when I was young, but there is still a segment of society that sees self help as a shameful act by weak people. So, we have limited ourselves in being transparent about even feeling bad, much less being transparent about getting help.

We have done this to ourselves. I know as a parent I have tried to shield my children from pain. I never wanted them to fail, fall or get hurt in any way. As a society we have implemented the “participation trophy” approach to losing. We are terrified to hurt emotionally or physically. Yet, not only is pain unavoidable, it is tremendously valuable. The point of experiencing pain is developing grit and stamina to get out of it. We are not supposed to live in pain, but we are supposed to grow through it. We use it to become kinder, stronger and more loving. But, we cannot learn those things if we cannot accept the reality that pain exists in everyone’s lives and there are ways for us to manage it.

I believe that we can all get better at life. We are all capable of living joyfully. We are all capable of getting better every day. We may not all be good at math, but we all have joyful life potential. To get there we must become willing to try it another way.

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