Have you ever experienced overwhelming pain and stress? Maybe it was love lost, a heartbreak, financial difficulty, a health crisis, or something else. As humans with nervous systems, we are sensitive to the challenges and adversities we face, even if we aren’t consciously aware of the effects they cause. Certainly we all would rather do with less pain and more of the pleasant experiences of life, but that’s not how reality works. In fact, pursuing pleasure to it’s fullest end will pull you right back around into pain, just ask anyone who’s had a substance abuse issue.
So how do we make these unpleasant experiences a source of fuel, something the helps us to press forward towards more meaningful outcomes in life and towards our dreams? Part of the answer lies in the way we interpret pain and stress. Oftentimes it can can be easy to judge these things as categorically bad, however, in doing so we become resistant to them, only magnifying our suffering by resisting reality and experience itself. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do anything to resolve our issues, but we don’t need to make them worse by resisting them.
When we place our hand closely over an open flame we begin to feel the urge to pull back because our body knows the harm it could bring to us if we keep it there. When we feel discomfort inside ourselves, we can’t pull away from our own bodies, our own lived experience, and we can’t split ourselves. Sure, in a sense we can do these things, but they wreak havoc on our mental health and wellbeing, leading to mental illness and disorder. However, when we choose to be accepting of the unpleasant feelings and sensations we are having, whether that’s from a physical source or a more intangible emotional one, we dull the intensity we would experience from resisting or ignoring it.
Through accepting the experience as opposed to trying to change it we free ourselves from magnifying it. Now when I refer to trying to change it, I mean changing the way we feel through suppression, distraction, or the use of something psychoactive to change the way we feel. Of course we want to change it, but we would do ourselves an injustice if we try to change the symptom of the discomfort instead of the source. There are some things we can’t change and I encourage everyone to look into some of my others posts on how to deal with that.
However, if it’s physical pain, tending to our injuries, optimizing the healing process and accepting where we’re at right now can make the process of recovery more expedient. On the other hand, if it’s more emotional in nature, then it’s allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and expressing those emotions fully in a healthy, constructive way. If there’s anger, expressing aggression through the pursuit of goals and movement oriented activities can be helpful (instead of trying something destructive) and if it’s sadness, allowing tears to flow can ease the heartache. When we begin to approach pain and stress with this lens on, we can begin to see how it fuels us and moves us forward, whereas resisting only slows the process of healing at best or brings us to a self-destructive screeching halt at worst.
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