The Way of CompassionWords for Hard Times

Two Questions to Ask When You are in Pain

By March 3, 2009 4 Comments

For me, the process of transformation often begins with pain – a pain that grows in its intensity until it is great enough that I have to look at it and face its causes.
One of the greatest tragedies of our culture is that we look at emotional pain–and its manifestations of depression, fatigue, apathy, anxiety and anger–as problems, a blot on what should be the clean fabric of our lives. We see pain as an unwelcome intruder that to be remedied or removed. But pain is just a symptom, and we can’t heal ourselves at the level of symptoms.
Consider it: physical pain is as a part of the body’s defense system. It is the unpleasant sensation stimulated when some situation- chemical (such as spilling acid on your hand), thermal (such as burning yourself), or mechanical (such as getting your thumb caught in the door) threatens to damage body tissue. The physical pain you experience offers an important function; it creates unpleasant sensations, so that you end situations harmful to your body and hopefully avoid those situations in the future.
What if your emotional pain serves a parallel function? What if it is a part of your soul’s defense system, triggering unpleasant sensations to encourage you to end those situations that threaten to damage your soul?
Not in every situation, but in most, pain is simply an indicator that in some way we are living out of alignment with our true nature.
This can happen in two ways: 1) We make choices out of alignment with the personal truth of our individual, authentic selves. 2) We live out of alignment with our true nature as human beings, which is love. When we operate from mindsets of fear or scarcity, when we live with a deficit of love for ourselves or others, we are out of alignment with our true nature, and we will be in pain.
Pain always carries with it a sacred message. Pain is always trying to bring us into wholeness and to steer us toward joy. When it comes, instead disdaining and disrespecting it by seeing it as a problem, we can honor it as a gift, bearing the simple news that our lives need tweaking, that something is off.
It’s always safe to explore what that is. We can ask: what is the message of this pain? What is it that is not working in my life? Where have I lost alignment with my true self? Where I have lost my connection to love?
Pain goes away when the danger to the true self is gone, when it is no longer needed as a defense mechanism, as an incentive to the self to end some soul-depleting or soul-denying way of living. Often,just admission of what is not working will relieve an enormous amount of pain.
So ask yourself, where in my life am I in pain? To find out, you might need to look at how pain shows up in your life. Here are some ideas to spur your thinking.
Substance Abuse
Write down some notes about how pain shows up in your life, and in what areas of your life you are in pain.
Ask yourself, “Do I have any sense of the message being carried by this pain?”
Ask yourself: “Where have I repressed or ignored what’s true for me? Where have I left love for myself, others, or the world?
Let me know what you learn.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Mike Kohl says:

    Great post….I absolutely agree Tara that your emotional pain is a

    However, here’s another tangent…perhaps it’s not that your life is out of alignment…that you’re doing is wrong, but rather the perspective you have. If you were to drop your expectations or judgement on things, it changes everything.

    For instance, I can be alone “longer” than other people before feeling “lonely” (and I am a very ‘social’ person btw 🙂 )—- and other people have a constant need to be surrounded by others and feel loneliness sooner than I would.

    (on the other hand perhaps there’s something else “incomplete” in their life that’s not making them feel “complete” —- just thinking out loud here).

    An analogy….for physical pain: if a person were to punch me, i’m going to get pissed and probably fight back. However, if that same dude punched Gandhi, he may offer ‘the other cheek’ — for his perspective on living non-violence is supreme.

    just a thought…..

  • sophiashouse says:

    Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment.
    For me, perspective falls into coming from a place of love or not – as well as coming from a place of “shoulds” vs. leaning into what’s true. In that sense it can be seen through the lens of these two questions.
    Thanks so much for visiting, and sharing, and hope to see you here again.
    Warmly, Tara

  • Mike Kohl says:

    (boy my brain jumps around 🙂 )

    First sentence of my previous post, I meant to say that emotional pain is an indicating there’s “something” out of alignment in your life.

    From your post:
    This can happen in two ways: 1) We make choices out of alignment with the personal truth of our individual, authentic selves. 2) We live out of alignment with our true nature as human beings, which is love.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to dig just a little deeper here 😛

    Your Point #1 — absolutely agree — the hardest part I think is trying to discover your authentic self. That’s something I think most of us come to understand more with age (or experience). I’m in my 30’s and look back to my 20’s — a world of difference!

    Your Point #2 — This is where I’m a little lost. I do believe love can fix an amazing amount of things (imagine a world of love vs. hate/scarcity/etc). But what if your emotions are just telling you to be with someone now (lonely), or scared to do a public presentation (where you could just prepare, have faith and accept the situation), or frustrated with business progress (indicating that you need to slow down, lower expectations), etc…

    My thought process may be more “left brained” — and do think we should stop “shoulding” ourselves, (as you just mentioned). I just feel while Love is the most powerful constructive “act”, I think a lot of times emotions are just simply telling us to do something.

    Does this make sense? Hope so!

  • sophiashouse says:

    Okay! Now I get what you are saying Mike, and I think its a good point. I think what I had in mind here was those emotions in a persistent form – and when they stick they are usually sticking because we aren’t tuning into what we are actually feeling and why. If we are able to feel the emotion fully and act on it, than those emotions can serve just the constructive role you explore in your comment.
    Does that make sense to you? Warmly, t

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