Dealing with Physical and Emotional Pain
Pain is inevitable. You can try your best to stay away from it all your life, but it will enter into your life with surprise. You can’t avoid pain, but knowing how to deal with it does bring some relief during its unexpected occurrences.
In the moments of pain, whether emotional or physical, the more you sit with it, the more you suffer. Right now, my right forearm is painful due to a workout injury. But if I spend the entire day thinking about the pain and being upset over skipping today’s workout, it only increases the perception of the pain.
Dealing with Physical Pain
Have you noticed that in case of a physical injury, the more you think about the pain and look at the injury, the more pain you feel? But if you get involved in other tasks, the perception of pain seems to disappear. However, this doesn’t mean that we should ignore our pains.
A pain asks for heightened awareness and proper care of the injury. When you encounter pain, the first thing to do is locate and understand your pain well. Where does the pain feel? Is it in the muscle, or it’s coming from the bone beneath it? Is it in a joint where two bones are rubbing with each other? Which movements tend to increase the pain, and which postures bring relief?
Some people panic when they feel pain somewhere, and some people ignore the pain until its sever. Both are not the optimal options. You need to feel it and understand it. Don’t run away from it. But once you’ve taken the measures don’t sit with it either. Carry on with the other tasks of the day.
In the moments of pain, you have to work on a new skill – a skill to be aware of the place of the pain so that you don’t twist it in the wrong direction, and at the same time keep your attention on other day-to-day work. This combination of awareness of pain and attention at work will prevent your pain from becoming suffering.
Sitting down with the pain and thinking that it’s your whole life is the worst kind of suffering. You need to realize that this pain is just a tiny part of your life. You’ve focused all your attention on that small part, so it seems that it’s your whole life. Don’t let the pain fill your entire mind.
Dealing with Emotional Pain
The method mentioned above for physical pain works for emotional pain as well. I know I am entering dangerous territory here. Severe emotional pain and psychological trauma can lead to clinical depression and anxiety. One must take professional help when needed, just like you’d do in chronic physical pain.
Along with professional help, take help from your own mind too. After all, it’s YOUR body and mind; no one knows it better than you. A doctor or therapist can only guess what’s going on inside; only you can actually feel what’s going on inside. So make use of it. Try to dig deeper into those feelings.
In case of emotional pain, watch which patterns of your thoughts are repeating? Which thoughts generally triggers the whole series of depressive thoughts? Does it come from seeing or being around something specific? Or to a particular time?
Once you get curious about your pain and start to explore it, you will realize that you are not the pain. You are the one observing the pain. You are separate from your pain. Your entire life is not that pain; it’s just a small part of your life. Once you experience this separateness from your pain, it won’t occupy your mind. Now you can just be aware of it and attend other things in life.
In the case of mental pain, remember that it’s always self-inflicted. External things, events, and people can cause you physical pain; only your own mind can cause you mental pain. An undesirable event might have happened to you at one point in time, but it’s your mind that’s reliving that event now. The event has stopped, but your pain has not because your mind is continually imagining it in a loop.
Just like dealing with physical pain requires a heightened awareness of the body, dealing with emotional pain requires a heightened awareness of your mind. But not all emotional pain is caused by the mind; some are pure feelings too. All your life, you kept yourself busy in one stimuli or other, never asking yourself how you are actually feeling in that moment. You start to get blind towards your feelings, but emotional turmoils put you directly in touch with your feelings.
The goal is not to rationalize yourself out of the pain. The goal is to get in touch with the pain. Feel it. Cry if you feel like crying. Don’t try to suppress natural reactions. But don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it unnecessarily relives the moment in your head. Don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it starts to make you think that this pain is your entire life. Don’t fall in the trap of the mind when it tries to convince you that the entire universe is conspiring against you. None of that is happening in reality; it’s just your mind playing games with you. As the saying goes, “Mind is a good servant, but a bad master.” Take the reins of your mind back in your hands.
Your Attitude towards Pain matters
We don’t want to run away from pain, but we don’t want to add more pain to our life either. That’s why learning lessons from your pain is important. If you just try to get rid of the pain quickly, then you miss the most important step in the process – you forget to learn your lessons. As a result, you keep encountering similar pains in the future. By not learning the lessons, you are adding more pain to your future self.
Painful moments are your opportunity to take more care of the aspects of your life that you are currently overlooking. Inside the pain is hiding an opportunity to grow in your life. Your attitude towards your pain determines whether this hidden opportunity sprouts or not. If you treat the pain as your enemy, you’ll look for quick fixes to get rid of it. But if you look at it as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of an aspect of your life, you’ll take completely different steps. Then you won’t just pass through your pain; you’ll grow through your pain. Your pain will make you wiser and stronger than you were before that pain.
In the process of recovering from physical pain, you’ll get a better understanding of your body. And in the process of recovering from emotional pain, you’ll get a better understanding of your mind. Your emotional turmoils will get you in touch with your feelings. You’ll start mastering your mind in the process of healing from mental pain. But if you don’t accept the pain, and try to apply quick fixes, you miss out on all these benefits. And the pain is more likely to reappear.
Pain is a critical life-process
Pain is essential to keep you alive. Our body is a brilliant system. It knows when something gets out of sync. And pain is its signaling mechanism. Pain tells you that something is not working the way it’s supposed to; it tells you that some aspect of your life needs more care. If you don’t feel the pain, you’ll never know when things are going wrong in your life.
Isn’t it strange that pain is such an inevitable part of our life, but no one teaches us to live with it? We are taught to suppress it, run away from it, and apply short-term band-aids on it. But we are not taught to understand it and accept it as a part of life. Next time you encounter pain, don’t ignore it, don’t suppress it, and don’t treat it as something negative. Listen to it, understand it, grow through it, and learn from it.