If you're like me and a lot of other people, you avoid the pain, you numb it, deny it. Most of us are afraid of pain, we think that it's our job to avoid it. Often we'll engage in numbing activities to avoid the pain. We'll attempt to sweep it under the rug and deny it. We'll engage in endless conversation, either in our head or with others, trying to figure out the why...Why is it here? Why me? Why is this happening? Why is he or she doing this? Spinning the endless, age old question why, why why?
Some people deflect the pain and discomfort with unkindness. As author and activist Glennon Doyle explains, "All unkindness is pain deflection. Folks who think pain is a hot potato toss it to the next person so they don’t get burned. That’s all. People who are unkind just believe they can’t handle the pain that comes their way. "
I propose that attempting to avoid, numb, deny or deflect the pain only causes us to get more stuck in it. And here's the thing about pain...it can be our greatest teacher. Pain is a lesson disguised as suffering.
As Glennon Doyle writes, "Pain is not a sign that you’ve taken a wrong turn or that you’re doing life wrong. It’s not a signal that you need a different life or partner or body or home or personality. Pain is not a hot potato to pass on to the next person or generation. Pain is not a mistake to fix. Pain is just a sign that a lesson is coming. Discomfort is purposeful: it is there to teach you what you need to know so you can become who you were meant to be. Pain is just a traveling professor. When pain knocks on the door—wise ones breathe deep and say: 'Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.'"
What if everyone that we meet are also our teachers? Everyone...the good, the challenging, the uncomfortable, the toxic, what if they are all teachers for us? Would it be possible to more readily see the difficulties we might encounter as trainings for our heart? Maybe instead of someone being an enemy they're actually a good friend that taught us many lessons.
Pain, if you let it, typically comes, stays for a while and then it leaves. When it leaves it tends to leave us better, stronger, wiser, softer, kinder, more empathetic and compassionate. It's not something to attempt to avoid, it's something to sit with, embrace even, and allow to pass through.
Next time pain comes knocking at your door, invite it in like an old friend. Sit with it, be still, look it in the eye, know that you are strong enough to handle it, and find the lessons.