Our Relationship With Pain

Pain Pain Go Away,
Come Again Another Day,
‘But I’m Here Now!’

So often this is the way that we relate to and treat our pain.

We want it GONE!
We want it to be how it was before,
How we think it should be,
We want it to be different,
And so we negate and fight with how it actually is.

For this piece the focus is on physical pain, whether that is an illness, injury or a condition.

The principles apply to any type of pain – physical, emotional or mental.

We often start by looking to find a cure through our health service, holistic practices, supplements, exercise, Google or by any and every means possible and usually doing all of them at once!

Seeking the perfect pill, a magic wand, someone to make it all better and take it away so that we can get back to normality, to how we were and get on with life…

Now of course we want the pain to disappear, to be fit and healthy and those methods both conventional and holistic can play a vital part in healing. However… before we rush to use them first let’s approach how it is now and explore our relationship with the pain itself.

What actually is the pain?
Is it the thing itself?
Or is it your relationship with it…?
The great effort in trying to get away from it, get rid of it and get back to normal,
The story about it, the descriptions, the labels, perhaps how it happened and the regret, blame and shame,
The mental torture of trying to work it all out and make sense of it,
Wondering…
Why did it happen to me?
What if I had done this differently?
What does this mean?
What will the rest of my life be like living with this pain?

When we make something separate we suffer.

There is ‘me’ and then ‘the pain’,
The enemy,
The problem,
The thing that has gone wrong,
THE GREAT INCONVENIENCE!

Whether we realise it or not we tend to speak to pain with great venom, aggression, frustration and anger…
‘NOW GO AWAY, I WANT YOU TO BE DIFFERENT TO HOW YOU ARE!’

And so this becomes our relationship with pain.

You can sense the internal violence yet recognise simultaneously that the pain is a part of us and our current experience and here we are at WAR with it very directly!

Chances are we have all been on the receiving end of ‘I Want You To Be Different To How You Are’, whether that has been in a close relationship with a partner, parent or friend and how did that turn out?!!!

So how would it be if we stopped, checked in and looked at the dialogue with our arm, leg, heart, illness, our pain?
What does it look like?
What does it feel like?

Are we viewing it as something separate, a problem, a monster to be fixed or annihilated?

Or are we recognising it as a delicate, wounded part of ourselves that is desperately in need of our loving attention right now, calling very directly to be held in our warmth and gentleness.

Now I am not suggesting that you instantly love your pain, deny the pain’s very existence. That would cause even more pain in the pretending and trying. But instead be with it, sit with it, speak with it honestly and kindly.

And so we start from a place of acceptance and truth…

‘I Don’t Like How You Are Right Now And I Would Dearly Love For You To Be Healthy But This Is How You Are Right Now’.

No longer future, no longer past but directly approaching what is immediately here.

Over time as you sit together you get closer, become more intimate, more connected, more embodied,
Meeting layers of emotion and insight along the way.
Perhaps your dialogue with pain evolves to a point of ‘What Is It That You Need Today?’

Without the trajectory of forcing it to be different you get to be present with the actual pain, maybe losing the word ‘pain’ itself, recognising that the description is not the thing itself.
Maybe you discover that what you once called ‘pain’ is something entirely different,
And… so you gently soften around it, being with the actual sensations, feeling the subtleties of the moment to moment experience.

There becomes space for compassion to grow,
Perhaps the pain itself may change,
It may decrease or even disappear as you find peace within it.

Sometimes it can bring great revelation and understanding,
But don’t make any of these into a goal,
Healing has its own time.

Be mindful that you are not sitting with the pain so that it goes away, so that it heals, so that it disappears, in that you are enforcing conditions, an agenda…

And there will be some days when it may just be too much to be with.
On those days honour your beautiful humanness,
It’s OK.

Just be its friend, its therapist, listen to it, hold space for it to be as it is, let it express what it needs to and hold it close when it needs you the most.

Over time what was once separate returns home, welcomed in as it is, no longer the problem, the enemy.
And, if required… now there can be other types of treatment and therapy but now it comes from a different place, a peaceful place embarking on the healing journey together.

David Rees

From Finding Peace In The Very Heart Of Life