Everyone feels pain, I feel it, you feel it, throughout our lives pain has been a constant. We are not sure why we will feel pain, but we definitely know when we are feeling it. I have always been fascinated by emotions and pain has stood out to me as a unique feeling. Pain is universal, like love, everybody feels it at some point in their lives. When you think about pain, you automatically think of physical pain. Most people are not aware of the fact that emotional pain shares the same pathways in your brain as physical pain. Your body registers it the same way and so breaking a leg is literally equivalent to feeling heart broken. Also, people assume that pain is a bad thing. Notions of good and bad do not apply to scientific reasoning- basically pain is what it is. We will never truly know why humans must suffer, but we sure as hell can use our pain in powerful ways..
Pain is Power
Ancient Buddhist teachings encourage us not to view pain as alien, but as something natural to us humans. The idiom ‘be with your pain’ is often used to depict stoic strength and tolerance of uncontrollable situations in life. I want to take it further and suggest that not only should humans live and be with their pain, but they should also use their emotional pain as power. The rewards area of the brain usually lights up after a heartbreak, this shows that we become more ‘motivated’ when suffering romantic loss. This is why some people start projects or businesses after a break up. Pain can be surprisingly awakening. I find myself motivated the most to write after someone has angered me or when I am emotionally upset about a topic. Pain sets me off and it gives me access to an untapped drive.
Indeed, all humans possess an innate power. Our choices and perceptions are important to our power because they provide us with a framework to experience ourselves. Our options are limitless, therefore it makes sense that our power is also limitless. The extent of our power is unknown to us because it is limitless and ultimately, inconceivable.
- 1. Pain is Sobering
Andrew Soloman writes:
“I hated being depressed, but it was also in my depression that I learned my own acreage, the full extent of my soul. When I feel happy, I feel slightly distracted, as though it fails to use some part of my mind and brain that wants the exercise”.
Now, I’m not professing to be a sadist or a masochist, far from it, instead what I am highlighting is that pain has more uses than we imagine so. Grief, sorrow, sadness are all emotions that have a way of grasping our attention, making us more acute and aware of ourselves. Pain demands to be felt and it demands us to tune in to what is going on inside of us. Emotional pain sobers me, it makes me pay attention inward whether I like it or not.
- 2. Use Pain Constructively
We know that every effect has a cause. Examining the cause of our pain can lead us to discoveries about our subconscious decision making. Pain alerts us to potential errors of judgement or bad choices that we might be making in our lives. Sometimes a lesson learnt the hard way is a lesson better learnt and figuring out how we arrived at pain in the first place helps us to understand that pain is not normal. Apart from the situations out of our control, ask yourself about the origins of your emotions, how did I arrive at this pain? What were my choices? And what lessons can I take for next time? Take control of your pain and use it as a necessary lesson for your own personal evolution.
- 3. Emotional Intelligence is Powerful
More and more studies are showing that it is possible for us to re-condition our reactions to achieve longer-term control over our emotions. Unstable moods are considered to be a sign of a lack of control in professional and social environments and since we are all susceptible to unwelcome moods, controlling emotions is an intelligent maneuver. Pain is power because it gives us a wider perspective and forces us to seek support from the outside that we may not necessarily think we need. Although we’d all like to think that we can handle pain, nobody is invincible and sometimes the most traumatic times force us to stand up for ourselves and gives us a chance to be our own best friend.
Life After Pain
Your pain is a part of you, it will never leave you. But how you view your pain is negotiable and changing your framework for how you register emotions could be the first step in gaining emotional intelligence. The most important part of pain is rejecting the victimhood status. Don’t focus on what has already happened, and don’t be tempted to ask ‘why me’, instead focus on the power you have at this very moment and where it could take you tomorrow.