Today I want to talk about pain. Yes, I know you don't like it and you do everything you can to avoid it. However, no matter how hard you try...you will experience pain. Sometimes this pain is physical, sometimes it is emotional and on occasion, it is both! Our culture (in the United States anyway) is constantly trying to erase pain at all costs. We live in fear of pain constantly I believe. Freud spent an enormous amount of time thinking about this idea of pain avoidance and used it formulate his theory of the 'Pleasure Principle.' I work in a hospital environment nowadays and the amount of pain medication I observed being prescribed for patients really reinforces this idea I have about how poorly we value pain.
Value in pain, you ask?? Aaron, are you serious?? Yes, there is value in pain. You see pain is a response to a stimuli. Pain is trying to tell you something and IT wants you to listen! What is pain trying to tell you? IT needs you to do something, like maybe stop that behavior your participating in..right now! Whether it is pulling your hand away from a fire or destroying your liver through heavy and constant alcohol consumption. IT wants you to change. Hmm...pain as a change agent, interesting concept, right?
Let's apply this to something more subjective. After all, pain is highly subjective isn't it? What I find painful, may not be as painful for you. So what about pain and mental illness? Perhaps when we experience depression or anxiety, this type of affective pain is our mind's way of telling us we need to change something. Maybe we need to change our eating habits (I know I have experienced this when I have ingested too much caffeine) or exercise habits (depression and lack of exercise). Maybe our mind is telling us that something more radical needs to be done, such as changing our brain chemistry. Regardless, pain is not just a state of being which needs to be avoided or combated at all costs, it is a coach that is asking something of us. By doing so, we not only allow pain to be a positive force of change but we build our resiliency capacity.
The next time pain speaks, I encourage you to listen, rather than just run away.