We are conditioned from birth to avoid pain.
It’s only natural. Something sharp. Something hot. It’s the fundamental mechanism by which our body communicates to us, “Danger!” “That hurts!” Whether we’re hungry or tired or sick, it’s the pain, the discomfort that spurs us to action to try to change the situation.
It starts when we’re infants, and continues on through childhood and into adulthood. As the years tick by, many people develop the simple attitude, “I’ll go to great lengths to avoid pain and discomfort.”
Sometimes the things that are suppose to help are actually harmful in this regard. Think of people taking pain killers, becoming addicted, medicating behaviors gone dramatically awry. Negative consequences of such behavior don’t have to be that dramatic either.
Consider the normal aches and pains of going from being “inactive” to “active”, when you start exercising after a long time off. Muscles and joints let you know if you’ve been sedentary too long. The discomfort of sore spots in your legs or arms or back or all of the above can cause powerful reactions.
Some people are spurred forward to be more active so the pain will decrease and eventually go away. Other people might respond by hanging up the running shoes after the first day out, not willing to work through the discomfort to a healthier state.
And if we’re talking about emotional pain? We often avoid conversations, situations, etc. that cause us emotional discomfort. The thing is, if we live our lives avoiding pain, our world experience, and overall well-being, will suffer. We absolutely have to confront the pain to get better.
Just how do we do that, you ask?
It’s in that first moment of discomfort, as we first fell the pain, that we must make the choice. I’d suggest that’s the moment we have to prepare for, to be ready to cope with the pain, and thus transcend it. We have to practice how we’ll respond and learn different strategies for coping in different situations.
Why face it though? It’s pretty straight forward, really. If we don’t deal with it, if we try to ignore or avoid it, that thing that’s causing the pain isn’t going to go away. It will still be there.
Each of us has to work through pain, cope with it, transcend it, to get to the other side. And what’s on the other side? Healing and improved health wait for those who learn to deal with discomfort.
An important clarifying point is appropriate here: The discomfort I’m not talking about is not pain caused by things like a hot stove, or a broken leg, or a car crash, or any other intense and traumatic situation. It’s critical to be able to discern between a situation that involves immediate danger to self or others, and less threatening circumstance.
That said, there is much pain in life that we can learn to deal with and thus transcend. Down this path we’ll be able to overcome the causes of the pain, to be a better human being.
It’s only pain, after all. Remember the old saying, “No Pain, No Gain.”