I’ve been thinking about pain lately. If you focus your lens on it in the world, there is so much of it. If you focus (or are forced to focus on it) in your life, it can be overwhelming. But it can also be a gift. Imagine a diver holding her breath, diving down for the pearl. If you follow it down and are able to keep it from sinking you, it can reveal certain truths. The truth is that others cannot fix or save you entirely. You are, indeed, an individual in your own mind and by that, alone. There are many benefits to this – many protections. But when in the midst of this pain, it just feels lonely. Another truth that can be revealed, when you are ready enough (and brave and the pain pushes you to it) is that others close to us can form a web of connection, safety, and closeness that holds us when we are at our weakest. No one person can bear this loneliness for very long without it changing us and the story we tell ourselves about our world.
We hold fast to the mythology that it’s possible for others to save us to because of the original holding by our parents (i.e. mother) who may have held us in her arms when we were sick, or had a scraped knee, or a nightmare. But those pains were so simple for them to soothe and did not trigger their own vast unsoothed pains. And so we repeat the cycle of seeking out soothing from others and feeling the loss.
The more important lesson along the way would have been to teach us how to calm and comfort our deepest selves – by recognizing and naming our hurts, forging a new path of safety, security, and self protection, and forming a sense of empowerment that we can pull in the resources we need to care for ourselves.
We are so smart, so insightful, and have so many gifts. At Resolute, we remind you and affirm these gifts in you. Rearranging the furniture of these things within the house of our minds to our own liking is the key. Sorting through closets that contain the voices that no longer serve us and kindly responding to our own internal criticisms with truths that we can back up with evidence creates new voices that we want to listen to in our minds. The maintenance and care of ourselves is fundamental to being able to act with empathy, calm, boundaries, ethics, clear headedness, and the like with others. If our house is in order and maintained, our relationships will fall into place. We will be more confident with others. When we unclutter ourselves, we have space for others’ faults, missteps, imperfections, bad days, etc. There are rooms in everyone’s’ homes that no one can or should have access to – relationships that are stuck reveal the more significant work in the other person’s house that are beyond our ability to reach. And this is why we need to be alone in our heads – it is a workspace. There is so much to process about the world that we each need a room that never is clean, that has rough edges, where we can experiment and try things out. This is residence of our lovely growing edges.
The web of connection is key to changing our relationship to pain. Starting with psychotherapy can help. Sometimes, we don’t even know how to connect to others, build a web, or use the web we have. Symbolically, it’s a matter of determining who might be good to trust and then slowly showing them those growing edges. Change happens when we expose our vulnerable areas to validating sources in others. This creates the building blocks that reinforce and strengthen our sense of self concept and self esteem. We write the story and determine just who we are. Others do not save us but we cannot do it without them. It’s in our DNA to be social creatures and that means our very survival depends on creating possibilities within ourselves to reach out to others and allow ourselves to be touched when others need us. What a glorious feeling it is when we are full enough to give to others.
What do you think about pain? How do you make sense of it in your life?
Also published on Medium.