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"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baby Steps to Take When Pain Overwhelms You

Going through one of life's painful moments is undoubtedly always difficult. But we tend to make it more difficult because of the way we go about it.

The inner dialogue is often made up of precisely those elements that simply make it worse. And of course at times like that we are generally not particularly aware of the inner dialogue, so we go around and around the circle of pain, with no end, until inevitably time dulls some of it.

But it does not have to be quite like that. While it is true that some types of pain require time, and require healing and require closure, it is just as true that while we are in that process of letting time go by and healing and achieving closure, we can be having an inner dialogue that simply magnifies the pain, and hence makes it last longer, or we can be having an inner dialogue that allows us to choose much of how we experience the pain, and in so doing, allows us to deal with it in another fashion.

We may blindly tell ourselves things like:
  • Why me?
  • These things only happen to me...
  • I'll never get over this
  • I can't bear this pain
  • I can't live without ____________
  • Other people's lives are so easy compared to mine
  • I can't live like this
  • I'll never forgive _____________
  • No one cares how much I am suffering
  • No one understands how much I am suffering
But in blindly telling ourselves things like that, we are focusing on the eye of the storm, while hurricane-strength winds blow around us, but we have lost total sight of what goes on beyond the storm.
What I'm saying is that by remaining in a place inside of ourselves where we can maintain a sense of perspective about our pain (even in the worst of it), almost as though we were observing it from outside, at least in order to remember that there is life beyond the pain, by doing this, we give ourselves a much better chance of moving beyond the pain in a much healthier way than if we do not.

When you were a child and fell from your bicycle and skinned your knee, you may have cried or sobbed as the blood flowed from the wound, and your mother cleaned the dirt from it. She may then have attempted to distract you from the pain by giving you a cookie or a piece of chocolate, or allowing you to watch a special show on TV. Doing so did not take the pain away, but it accomplished a number of things:
  • you learned the value of loving support; the support of your mother who cared for your wound and put a bandaid on it (find some support now - preferably loving - to help you with your current pain)
  • you learned the value of distraction to gain perspective (your current distraction might be going to church to pray, it might be re-reading a favorite book of poems, it might be listening to a Greek aria, or it might be going for a walk)
  • you learned that in gaining perspective, the pain didn't go away, but somehow it began to lessen (even as your current pain burns your soul, remember that lesson from childhood and understand that although this pain now far surpasses a mere tumble from the bicycle, it will also begin to lessen
The inner dialogue, remaining aware of yourself (and not only of your pain), the decision to make good choices - even in the midst of pain - all of these will stand you in good stead, when you need to begin the process of dealing with overwhelming pain.

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