The gift of pain

Pain is a gift

People who do life well work with themselves not against themselves. This actually requires them to stop and listen to what is going on inside. If you are not accustomed to listening to yourself, the best place to start is with pain. Pain is your most honest voice to yourself.

See pain is a gift. I was reading a story recently about a 5 year old leprosy sufferer who bit the end of her finger and wrote her name on her bedroom wall in blood because she could. The disease attacks the nervous system which means the pain signals stop. If you put your hand on the fire, it is actually supposed to hurt so that you quickly remove your hand before it gets badly burnt.

Yet in today’s world we often treat pain as a bad thing. We mask, medicate and avoid pain wherever possible.

Pain is designed to protect us from further pain

If you ignore it, then there is nothing to stop you destroying your own life.

The main reason people don’t listen to pain is that they think it will require them to change something hard. Deep down the fear is the they are not up to the challenge. They don't have what it takes. They believe that they are somehow inadequate or not good enough and so need to keep running away from their reality. Yet suppressing emotional, mental and physical pain will always cost you more in the long run. 

Pain really is our most honest voice. It is a gift designed to protect us from further pain and tell us that we have incredible value and need to be protected. Pain tells us what is not right and informs us about the things that are unsustainable and emotionally damaging that need changing.

Typically people seem to hate pain. We try to avoid, ignore, mask or run away from it all costs. Most people don’t listen to their pain because the moment we actually hear ourselves loud and clear, it demands we take action and make change. They would prefer not to face their pain and deal with the things that require massive action because it’s easier not to. This response to pain becomes a habit, and soon enough it is simply their way of life.  

Pain doesn’t tell us about the future and what we should do, it simply tells us what is not working now. Not listening to pain is like turning off the warning lights on our dashboard or the light in the lighthouse because it is annoying us. When we do that, there is nothing to prevent the car from running out of oil or the ships sailing onto the rocks. Pain is simply an internal signal about something that is not right physically, emotionally or relationally. The purpose of this signal is to protect us from further pain by alerting us to the things that need changing immediately. 

Learning to listen.

Becoming self-aware can seem strange or difficult if you have never made time to stop and listen to yourself. The great news is, you can learn. If you can’t hear or see what’s going on under the surface it is highly likely that you are attempting to have these conversations with yourself as the critic, the judge or the drill-sergeant. It is likely you imagine that this hard line approach will change your behaviour, when in fact it only reinforces the danger of being vulnerable. Your inner self will resist this approach and put up more walls to hide behind.

Imagine sitting in front of someone you have never met before and asking them to tell you all about what’s really going on in their life. Imagine also that your body language is closed, you are checking Facebook on your phone and you tell them you’ve only got five minutes so they better make it snappy. Do you think that they will readily open the vault and share their deepest feelings with you? I think not!

So what does it take for a stranger to open up? Every day, I talk with people whom I’ve never met before, and within two minutes they feel comfortable enough to tell me things they have never said out loud before. This happens because I carefully create a judgment free space for them and they sense the fact that I am only there to serve them. This makes it safe enough for them to access self-awareness, often for the first time.

It’s no different when you are building a relationship with yourself. It is only as we create a judgment free space and listen to ourselves as the dispassionate observer that it’s safe enough to be open and real. Let go of the judgment and watch how easy it is to see and hear what is really going on inside.

Stop and reflect 

Are you willing to take the time to stop and listen to yourself without judgment?

What is your pain saying to you today?

If you were to treat it as a loving voice, with your best interests at heart, how would you respond?

If you were to believe that you were enough and up to any challenge that life throws your way, how would that affect your willingness to listen to your pain?