Blame what on what pain? Blame is rampant in our culture. If we can offload responsibility onto someone or something else we will. When we feel pain, we want to escape it as quickly as possible.
Betrayed? Throw yourself into work, find a friend and go to the bar, or find the nearest shoe sale. If we get into trouble, we believe we have permission to blame the pain inflictor for our behavior. It must be his or her fault I feel this way. While that may be true, and another’s action causes a reaction in you, it doesn’t give you carte blanche to do whatever you want to numb or dull the pain.
The go-to behaviors are the problem, not the solution. When people come to therapy, it’s often because the assumed solution to the assumed problem was to drink, work, socialize, sleep, eat, scroll Instagram, workout, etc. And now that solution has become the problem. The real problem is usually not this armor. We desperately cling to the armor to shield us from our own pain. It’s a vicious cycle of the pain fueling the behaviors to numb… said pain.
Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior, shares in Oprah’s Soul Sessions turns the idea of pain as the problem on its head: “How would our lives and relationships and our world transform if we stopped being so afraid of pain? What if we just once and for all decided that we were strong enough for the pain in our lives so that instead of hiding from it we just rush straight toward it, and allow our pain to become our power?”
We don’t have how-to-deal-with-pain classes in school. If your parents didn’t teach you how to process your emotions, it’s likely you don’t have a tool to really deal with the pain. Once we take the pain head on, it actually does dissipate. I know it’s hard to believe; we think that if we do that we’ll be overtaken by the pain and never recover. The opposite is actually true. If we get really deep into our numbing behaviors, they can overtake us and lead to worse troubles.
This is where the mindfulness revolution comes in. If we learn how to apply mindfulness strategies to the here and now it can really teach us how to attune to the present, rather than the past or the future. Mindfulness can lead people to roll their eyes, but it’s really a word that leads us to pay attention to ourselves and our internal worlds, rather than being so externally focused. Mindfulness is also part of self-compassion, which uses self-kindness and a belief in common humanity (others have experienced what we are going through) to address pain.
These types of tools help us to digest it. If we didn’t digest our food, we’d have big problems, obviously. Just as our bodies need to physically digest what we take in, our brains need to emotionally process what our senses are taking in. If we resist that processing, it’s not going to lead anywhere that is productive or helpful for our well-being. There are so many tools to help us digest our pain (meditation, mindfulness, self-compassion, EMDR, journaling, and more). Whatever your chosen antidote to pain, the best medicine is to face it with courage and support.
Don’t make blame your friend and pain your enemy. Embrace your pain as a teacher and a difficult but necessary part of life.