What If: Pain is the Great Teacher

I hate pain. H-A-T-E pain. Pain is a feeling. It hurts in its own way, but it has tentacles of sadness and betrayal and worry and fear. It brings with it the discomfort of the unknown. It reveals internal struggles that we want to avoid. Pain stings with truth and awareness that is raw and real and exposing. Damn pain. And yet as I fight the pain, I hear the stories of brave pain facers that have walked into the fire for the sake of the growth.

“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming. This is what I can and must avoid: missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process…Because what scares me a hell of a lot more than pain is living my entire life and missing my becoming. What scares me more than feeling it all is missing it all.”

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

There are three things that I know about pain. Please recognize with me that this is head knowledge. Only on the very best days, the days when all the stars and positivity and good thoughts march in an ordered system of understanding, can I find peace within my soul to embrace these things. So, I share them not as brilliant insights, but as marching orders for myself.

  1. Pain requires me to let go of control. At the very core of my being (just read the description of my Enneagram type) is the need to have knowledge of the next step. I have to know. I need to have the plan. When pain comes, I am completely ripped of my safety net. There is absolutely nothing like pain to remove all of the anchors of security. When pain begins to creep up, or slams its ugly head into me in a way that is jarring, I have no choice but to let go.
  2. It’s my choice to change the storyline. To be clear, this is not diminishing or denying pain. This is not even avoiding. Changing the storyline is an intentional decision in my mind to accept the things that I cannot change and tell myself (as many times as necessary) that past experiences show me that pain can transform and beautify so I will not fight the pain…today.
  3. Breathe When I feel pain, I tense my muscles. When my body is distressed, I panic at my core. In seasons of prolonged pain – both physical and emotional – my body bears the scars. My shoulders have knots. My breathing is irregular and shallow. Although it is not a natural response, my best pain remedy is a good deep breath. I breath from my toes. I allow the oxygen to go all the way to the roots of my pain. No, it doesn’t fix it, but it forces my body to slow and think and not react. That’s the single most important thing I can do in moments of pain.

I don’t want to admit it, but pain is a teacher. It teaches me to be myself. It teaches me to listen. It teaches me to slow down. Reacting and in the midst of pain is the warning flag, so for today, I feel you pain. I see you. I acknowledge your presence. I invite you to teach me. I give you permission to shape me for good. And I choose in that process to let go, change the storyline and breathe.

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