THE LIFE COACH SCHOOL PODCAST – Episode 137
We spend so much of our lives trying to avoid pain and trying to get out of pain. How much time and energy would I have if I didn’t spend so much of it trying to escape pain? Isn’t that crazy to think about? A few examples.
- We want our kids to get good grades so they will get into a good university and get a good job later on, so we won’t have to feel the pain of feeling like failed parents. And those probably aren’t the words that any one of us would actually use. But if we really do the thoughtwork on this, this is really what is going on in our mind a lot of the time – not ALL the time, but a lot of the time – when we’re talking with the children about their grades. We are trying to avoid future pain.
- We will avoid certain people because of the discomfort or even pain we feel when we’re with them.
- We plan, far in advance, what we will be doing over summer vacations, so we don’t have to experience the pain of being at the whim of someone else’s plans, or even being plan-less.
- I think the greatest pain we try to avoid is the pain of rejection. We spend a lot of time and mental energy hiding our problems from others, so that they won’t find out that we are not as good as they believe or they hope, and then reject us.
GETTING OUT OF PAIN:
- My whole ONE YEAR exercise has been an exercise to get me out of pain, right?
- We try and lose weight to get out of the pain of self-consciousness or of not fitting into our clothes the way we want to. Believe me, jeans that are too tight are not only emotionally painful, but physically painful.
- We gossip or backbite to get out of the pain caused by feeling less than another person. We think that if we speak ill of her, we will feel and look like more than her.
We know this already, but it’s really important to start with this reminder: Our thoughts are the cause of 100% of our pain. That is the truth. My child’s poor grades do not cause me pain. My thoughts about my child’s poor grades are what cause me pain. Rejection, in any form, cannot cause me pain. But my thoughts about the perceived rejection are what cause me pain.
And I don’t want to look at these things with judgement. Avoiding pain or trying to get ourselves out of pain is appropriate at times, and can serve us well at times. I just want us to be aware of how much time and energy it takes.
I really wanted to start today’s discussion getting us thinking about how much time and energy we spend avoiding pain or getting out of pain, and considering what our lives would look like if pain wasn’t so unappealing to us. What would our lives look like? How would we be able to improve our lives, quicker and more lasting, if we weren’t so afraid of pain?
Let’s make a case for pain.
“The reason why we avoid pain is because that is how our brain is wired. It’s not because we can’t handle it. It’s because our brain is wired to avoid pain. For so many years that kept us alive…”
The idea of moving toward pain instead of away from pain, isn’t a natural instinct, but it also isn’t a new concept. “No pain, no gain,” right? We go to the gym, very willingly to put ourselves through pain, to gain muscles.
But we don’t have that same approach with other pain in our lives. We think it is very very important to avoid pain. Or to resist the pain that we are in, as if it is bad or that something has gone wrong, rather than the truth: Pain is just part of the human experience.
“Many of us are caught in past programming: Seek pleasure and avoid pain. But in our (current) environment that is artificially filled with so much pleasure, the more we seek pleasure the more we destroy ourselves.
We have to make a case for pain … Give up the artificial pleasures in order to recalibrate what the body is designed to experience. Then from that place, be willing to embrace the pain of being alive.
One of the best ways I know of how to do this is to remind ourselves that we are designed to process pain.
Pain is a normal experience of a human being. If you met a human that said they had never experienced emotional pain, you would not think that that was normal. Yet, every time we experience emotional pain we think something isn’t normal and that it needs to be fixed immediately.
What if you were able to say, ‘No. When there’s pain, that’s normal. When there’s pleasure, that’s normal. Life is supposed to be a mix of both of those, and I am designed to process pain. I’m designed to be able to manage pain. I’m designed to be able to be in pain and to evolve myself beyond it.'”
What does embracing pain look like? I think it can look like a couple different things.
One. I think embracing pain can look like me having a difficult experience which causes me pain, and I don’t try to avoid it or get out of it. Pain and death and heart-break and betrayal and all of this is part of the human experience. When Matthew died, I felt sorrow. I felt pain. And that pain hurt more than anything I’d yet known. But I was okay feeling that pain. My thoughts about the passing of my son were merciful to myself. Your son died. You are in pain. And that is normal. That is okay. You do not need to get yourself out of pain. It is part the 50/50 of loving someone so deeply.
When I was young, still living at home, my dad would discourage us from taking fever-reducers. Fevers are the body’s way of naturally fighting disease. And, if it stays below 103 degrees, it isn’t actually dangerous to us, even if it is extremely uncomfortable. By not resisting the fever, I can allow my body to do what it was created to do, keep me healthy. In fact, reducing the fever with medicine can actually increase the time your body has to deal with the illness or the infection.
This is true with emotional pain, too. Pain is normal. 50/50, right? Pain is a natural part of being human. And when we resist it instead of allowing ourselves to go through it, or when we try to to eliminate it through buffering (doesn’t work, but the way), we are compounding on the natural pain that we will feel from just being a human – it will likely increase the time you and I will have to deal with the original normal pain.
Two. Embracing pain could also look like me, in a comfortable state, seeing something I want more for my life, and moving toward the pain that would get me there. Going to the gym. Or denying myself that third serving of Ben and Jerry’s. Remember: The currency for success is discomfort.
That is really easy to see in these example of embracing physical pain. Question: Is there an example of when it would be appropriate to, from a comfortable situation, move yourself toward emotional pain, the way we want to move ourselves toward physical pain, in the examples above?
What if there is someone in your life that you used to be close to, but that you had a falling out with. Maybe it was years ago. And you are comfortable not having a relationship with that person. You are comfortable not having this person in your life. It is possible that at some point in time, you will see that you want more for your life – you don’t want to have anyone in your life that you avoid because of your own thoughts about that person. And maybe you decide that moving toward the pain of re-introducing that person back into your life will get you to a new level in your relationship with yourself and with your life.
Let’s look back at the example of going to the gym. I injured my right knee when I fell down, training for my last marathon. As I consider moving toward the pain of going to the gym again, I will want to consider the past injury in deciding how quickly I move toward the discomfort of going to the gym or of running again. Take is slowly. Go to the edge of my comfort zone and then five steps over. Stop. Check to see how my knee is doing. Take a break if I need to. If I push myself toward pain too quickly when there is a past injury to consider, the damage that could be done to my knee could be long-lasting, maybe even irreparable, in an extreme case.
Likewise, when we decide to move ourselves toward the emotional pain that we hope would take us to another level in a relationship, if there is a past injury, that needs to be considered carefully, and checked up on, and watched carefully, and we may even need several breaks, as we move toward that emotional discomfort.
Let’s close with this, from Brooke:
“Here’s what I’m selling you. Learn how to be in pain in order to get what you want. Move towards the pain and away from the pleasure. Move against everything that your body is telling you to do instinctually. Those of my students who practice this and do this, are able to take their life by its tail. They are able to really then create what they want in their lives.”