Janine's Articles From the Soul From the Outside Poetry Corner Prisoner Letters

Issue 86

We’ve all been hurt many times in our lives.  Most of us still hurt now from something that happened in our past. I venture to guess almost all of us would rather not hurt at all and would not welcome a new pain added to all the rest we carry.

How do we go through pain?  How do we get to the other side?  And what does that other side feel like anyway?

It seems to me that the particular thing that has hurt us matters, that what kind of pain we are feeling makes it either easier or more difficult to get through.  I’m talking about emotional pain, of course, the kind that can weigh us down for years and years.  The story we attach to our pain matters a great deal.

Grief is the kind of pain that might be the most difficult to navigate.  It is that heaviest of emotions that we feel after a loss.

Most of us associate grief with the death of someone we love.  But we also grieve when we lose a relationship, a job, a house, a pet, possessions or any part of our life that was important to us.  Even when we ourselves make the choice to leave something behind, as when we move away from home and have to leave family and friends behind, we grieve.

Many of my readers are now doing the best they can to adjust to the loss of freedom.  That is also grief.

Where do we feel that pain?  Is it in our heart as the usual saying goes? It surely feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?  But sometimes I feel the pain in my gut and it radiates upward and seems to squeeze the very breath out of me.  But wherever we feel our emotional pain, it feels physical.  Our bodies and our emotions are very tied, no doubt about it! I don’t know how we would feel emotion if we didn’t have a body to feel with.  Does all this questioning help in any way when we first feel pain?

I don’t believe so.  I think the first thing to do whenever we feel pain is to simply allow it to come.  It’s not pleasant, it’s not easy but I believe it is essential to our health.

I’ve often heard people who are able to push their feelings down described as strong.  I just cannot agree with that assessment anymore.  I believe that when too many emotions are suppressed they will have to come out eventually, just as the valve on top of a pressure cooker releases the excess pressure within.  When we suppress our feelings, it stays within us and grows.  After a while, we may see bursts of uncontrollable emotion and/or behavior that seems disproportionate to the situation.

Feeling my emotions seems very healthy to me, the only healthy choice, really.  Crying at the drop of a hat, at the sound of a sad song, at a heart-breaking memory.  Consciously choosing to review all the good and bad memories I am grieving even when doing so makes the pain feel so much worse.

And eventually, as it has always happened for me, the pain lessens and the memories go from pain filled to tender and I am able to remember everything with a smile in my heart.

But the smile feels different after the grief is healed than it did before.  That difference is what is on the other side of pain for me.  It feels like my heart needs to break in order to soften, to open up and grow.  It feels like the other side of pain is where compassion, kindness, and loving understanding grow.

At the beginning of this article, I said

I thought most of us would like to avoid further pain in our lives.  I still think that is true but I also know that it is mostly through pain that I have grown in my own inner life.

Pain has softened me.  It has helped me recognize other people’s pain and feel compassion and empathy for their suffering.  It sometimes feels like a high price to pay, especially when I’m deep in the middle of a new painful experience, but I am continuously surprised that there does not seem to be an end to how much the heart can grow and how much it can hold.

I find it surprising and wonderful to experience the expansion that comes with pain.  But I also know that if I chose to view my pain as unacceptable, unjust, unfair or anything like it, then the gift it brings would not come to be. Pain is not the enemy.  Pain can be a great ally if I choose not to resist it.  It says in “Conversations with God” that what you resists persists, and that surely is true of pain.  When I reject it, push it away, pretend it isn’t there, it stays with me and comes up again for healing the next time a similar pain comes along. And again the time after that. unless I heal it.

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I believe that is what happens when we refuse to just let our pain come up naturally.  If we refuse to feel it, if we try to reject it, if we judge it as too much, as wrong, then we will live in suffering.  For me, the difference between pain and suffering is huge.

Pain happens, we feel it, accept it, we go through it, and we heal.

Suffering, on the other hand, happens when we feel pain but judge it as wrong. We reject it, suppress it, refuse to really feel it. This adds to the weight of all the pain we carry and, if we do that on a regular basis during our lifetime, we find ourselves carrying a huge load.

I believe it is not the pain that makes or breaks us, it is our attitude, our reaction to it.  Isn’t that true of everything else?  Isn’t our perspective directly responsible for how we view our lives?

If we believe we are treated unfairly by life, then we will look for unfairness in situations, in people’s words and actions.  If we believe we live in a dog-eat-dog world, then we will be forever ready to protect ourselves from attack.

If we believe we will always be able to handle anything life throws at us, then we will not need to protect ourselves from eventual pain, we will open ourselves up to all possible experiences and live our life to the fullest.

That is what I believe is on the other side of pain.  This knowing through experience that we can endure much and come out the better for it.  We can feel our hearts soften and open to others.  We can learn to feel compassion towards the suffering of others and our own and then grow in wisdom, which to me is loving understanding.

I believe the Universe is a benevolent place; that we are offered the exact experiences that will help us grow into being who we truly are.  This perspective allows me to view pain as beneficial.  It allows me control on how to react whenever I am hurt, to accept the experience and to give it the most loving meaning I can.

I know some think this perspective is very “Polyanna” of me.  I don’t really care.  I prefer viewing the world with rose-colored glasses and live in love and peace than to use dark glasses and see darkness everywhere.

That is why I accept the pain I’m feeling and I know it is helping me grow into the person I choose to be.  I’m still not saying I’ll be first in line for the next hurt life throws my way, but I know I would not miss it for the world.

Let’s live fully and joyfully!