Pain is a window through to a new perspective, new possibilities. The window may be ugly sometimes, but it doesn’t change the view. If we focus on the window, this is all we see, and we can miss out on the view. Windows exist to be opened to provide air and to help us see the view so that we can connect with what is outside while being protected from the elements.
This week, I hurt my back. I am now lying on my back, trying to see things differently, and pain is providing me with perspective.
Fetishes aside, no one enjoys being in debilitating pain constantly, whether it be physical or emotional. We try to continue on with life, denying that we are in pain. Some avoid doing things that they feel caused that pain, while others launch into doing more of that very same thing in attempt to “work it out”.
Why can’t we just let ourselves be hurt…? Being in pain is no failure – shit happens. If there were no pain, there would be no relief, no pleasure; we have much to be grateful for.
I reckon there are some steps we can take to assist us to gain some perspective (I am referring to more minor scale pain here – if someone just snapped their Achilles tendon or broke a bone, some goes out the window):
FIRST: Allow the pain. This has to be the start, and it sometimes is also the end. If we deny it or do not allow it, it can suppress itself elsewhere within us. Our bodies try to look after themselves as self-regulating systems, even if we don’t – our bodies do what they can to release pain. If we hold onto it either physically or emotionally, we are fighting against what is good for our bodies and can take sadly a lot longer to heal, or we may seem fine initially, but sooner or later, the pain will manifest in one way or another.
1. Try to identify the source of the pain accurately. This can be challenging to do, because onset can be slow and it isn’t always obvious. With physical pain, as with my back this week, I actually think the source, ironically, may have been when I had a massage 2 days ago. But I started feeling the tweak only yesterday properly, and the fully-fledged pain today, so it is hard to tell. With both physical and emotional pain, the ego must be left at the door enough so that we can question ourselves and not try to find a scapegoat to blame for the pain, when the source may be within us – such as a wrong movement, momentary lapse of awareness (or judgement) or pushing ourselves too far.
2. Admit the pain, regardless of the source. If we do not do this, it is likely that we will further hurt ourselves.
3. Rest. That may be enough to let it pass.
4. If rest is not sufficient, think of what assistance may be needed to help to isolate, minimise and ideally eliminate the pain. This may be a visit to a physio (physical) or a chat with a friend or counsellor (emotional). Pain is not a problem that requires a solution – it is a part of life that both requires and encourages reflection, awareness, attention and perhaps adaptation.
5. Adapt our lives slightly to lower chances of re-occurance. This is dependent upon us being able to accurately identify the source of the pain.
The points above may seem obvious or unnecessary – both may be true. In the height of pain, we don’t think about steps, we think about surviving. We should be focused on allowing ourselves to feel the pain so that it can pass out of our bodies and minds so that we can continue on with our lives. This helps us thrive, and can even develop a positive approach to pain.
How one deals with pain can be rather telling of one’s character. I remember falling even more in love with someone in a time when they were in great pain, but demonstrated an overwhelming amount of care and attentiveness in the midst of their own pain. I also remember losing a friend because they allowed their perceived pain to be more important than a friendship.
There is no point fighting pain, it only makes it worse. I felt my inclination at one point today was to tense up and my breathing became jagged and uneasy as I couldn’t walk straight. Determinedly deciding to just focus on leveling out my breath brought my posture straight and while it didn’t eliminate the pain, it was certainly more bearable. Before I breathed properly, no matter how I sat or lay, it was unbearable.
Today, I witness myself in physical pain just as yesterday I witnessed myself in emotional pain. Yesterday has passed, and so will today. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. It happens – and we exist despite and beyond it.
Seeing pain as a window to another view is powerful – we don’t pay much attention to windows themselves but more to the view thew give to us. We can learn from this: If we looked beyond the pain after acknowledging it is there, if we open the window and let the air in, suddenly there is no longer anything between us and the view and the window and pain disappear.
Being in pain doesn’t mean we are weak, just as it doesn’t mean we are strong, but the way we deal with it can dictate a fair bit of how we experience it next time, just as it shapes our character and can shape our relationships with ourselves, others and the world. We are not defined by our pain, just as we are not defined by our pleasure. Knowing this frees us from both into an existence that neither avoids nor is attached to either.