Pain Is a Teacher

It is said that pain in life is mostly optional, and that’s true. Much of the pain that we experience in our lives is self-created. It’s our own perception of things that usually gets us into trouble, not the actual circumstance or event. That’s not to say that people don’t experience major trauma in their lives, because they do, it’s only that many of our day-to-day experiences create unnecessary pain. That’s what we’re here to talk about, the unnecessary pain we put ourselves through in order to learn or understand something.

For some people, when they get hurt even in the most minor of ways, they play the victim. Life is still happening to them and they don’t see the experience for anything other than what the human perceives. Many of us reading this probably started from there. It is only through the process of awakening that we begin to understand that life happens for us and that every experience can be a learning experience if we simply allow it. It requires an entirely different perspective to recognize that we aren’t being victimized at every turn.

Pain teaches because it shows us very clearly what we don’t want. It can take us out of our comfort zone and make us look at the actions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs that led to a given situation. If we victimize ourselves we don’t have the ability to see this clearly. It becomes lost in the story that the ego wants to tell so that it can feel better.

Part of our journey is to recognize when pain is useful and when pain is being used as an excuse to stay stuck. When something first happens, pain is useful and should be fully felt and expressed. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Somewhere in that process though, we need to switch from hanging onto pain and staying stuck, to letting the pain go so we can move forward. When in the process that happens is entirely an individual thing. There is no set, definitive timeline or answer to that question.

Sometimes it’s not an individual event that causes pain that we hang on to. Sometimes it’s cycles that we repeat ad nauseam because we aren’t picking up the lessons from that experience. This is the concept of dating the same type of person and having the relationship end the same way every time. It’s a repetitive situation that doesn’t seem to change or end, and that we don’t seem to have much control over. It ends the same way every time no matter what.

Being conscious of those cycles is one thing. Getting the human to do anything about them, is a whole different story. This is the idea of pain being the teacher, but the idea of change can be worse than the pain of the cycle. It’s easier to stay stuck in crap cycles that we don’t like than it is to change our behaviour. It is easier in many cases to hold on to problems than it is to let them go.

Some spiritual teachers say that we identify with our problems and that we wouldn’t know who we were without these problems so the ego tries to hang on to them. Personally, while I don’t necessarily disagree with that idea, I think it’s more about fear of change. The unknown is more scary than a familiar problem.

The question becomes, how do we end cycles we are conscious of? How do we convince the human it’s a good idea to let this stuff go? Clearly, the simple recognition of pain is not enough to create change. So what is?

First, is a very clear decision to focus on the change we want to create. What is the outcome that we want to see? Focus on that.

Second, take our attention away from the problem. Now, this is where the work is truthfully because it’s really hard to get the brain to stop re-creating that familiar thought pattern. It requires constant re-direction, like pulling a toddler away from something they shouldn’t have. Honestly, we don’t have to stay here all that long. We just have to do it enough to break it. That break can happen very quickly with some conscious attention, but you may need to experience it a few times first.

The Universe loves to test us to see if we really want that change. So we don’t just get to do it once and be done with it, that would be too easy. We have to go over it a few times to make sure we’re actually through with that old cycle. This is where the pain becomes optional. When the experience happens again, which it likely will, we can play victim to it or we can respond differently. We can recognize it for the cycle it is, focus on the change we want to create, and not feel the pain pretty much at all. Or we complain about the cycle, feel stress because it’s happening again, and go through the same motions we went through the last time without changing anything. It’s our choice. It’s up to us to decide what to do.

Conscious awareness is the difference between blindly going through the pain and the emotions of an experience or not. We know we don’t like the pain, so then we have to figure out what we’re willing to do about it. It’s a choice, and the best part is, we don’t have to do anything. We can stay in pain if we want to.

We can do this with repetitive cycles, or we can do this anytime life throws us a plot twist. How much pain we experience is entirely up to us. There’s nothing wrong with allowing it to take us over and wallow in it for a while. It’s also okay to come at it more consciously, not so that we avoid it or squish it down, but so that we can understand it and recover from it quicker. Conscious awareness gives us the ability to move through it more quickly, that’s all.

We only get the true lessons from pain when we become consciously aware of the pain and what it’s showing us, without that we stay stuck in victimization. If you’re reading this, you probably are consciously aware already. So what are doing with that old pain that you’re hanging on to? Are you learning from it or are you just keeping it as a souvenir? The choice is yours.

Love to all.


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