We tend to recoil from pain. So we don’t easily learn from it. It can take repeated, prolonged encounters with the same form of pain before insight happens.
From malfunctions in relationship, to taking things personally at work, to holding on to anger, to world wars.
It’s the same problem: in recoiling from pain, we move not toward balance, but toward a different form of imbalance.
And that’s guaranteed to perpetuate pain.
To make it worse. To compound it over time. To weave it into the fabric of how we do things.
…a distorted experience of pain…
Each time we do it we traumatize ourselves. We place ourselves in damaging circumstances from which there is no escape.
No escape because our response is not transformation.
Instead we reorganize the pain into a less noticeable form. And that difference provides a moment of distraction which we mistake for change.
In doing this we heap trauma on top of trauma before the previous trauma can heal.
And it tracks back to the days when we were not responsible. When we had no control over our circumstances. We crossed over into responsibility with a distorted experience of pain.
A distorted understanding of it.
Dysfunctional methods of responding to it.
Or no methods at all.
Face to the storm
The only way to mitigate pain is to head into it. Let it wash over you. It’s literally like standing in heavy surf: you have to do it on purpose.
This allows you to observe your pain, discover the behaviors and attitudes from which it stems, and change them.
The behaviors and attitudes, specific and unique to you, that create friction with the universe.
Behaviors and attitudes you picked up early on, which have been strengthened and polished by your experience, and by your responses to experience.
Which flow from your behaviors and attitudes.
…keeping your balance is crucial to witnessing the opportunity of pain.
It’s a circle that keeps you standing in one place.
If you can arrest your responses to pain and adversity before they come flying out of you, stop and pay attention to what’s happening, you’ve got a shot at changing them.
Because when you can do that you can keep functioning in the midst of your pain. You can keep your balance.
And keeping your balance is crucial to witnessing the opportunity of pain.
But we tend, as individuals and as a species, not to do this.
Your are not your circumstances
There is a distortion in our perspective that claims our circumstances are all there is to it.
That life is comprehensively described by our pain. Our frustrations. Our failures.
That notions of improvement and change are fantasy. Unattainable. Reserved for others.
It’s not a conscious choice to think this way. It’s an autopilot setting. On the dial next to the I suck setting and the it’s too late setting.
Ingrained into you while your perspective was still being shaped. By circumstances, by experiences, and by people who had already advanced their own lives along the same misdirected path.
Once this is up and running, it’s hard to see possibility.
Or take it seriously when you do.
Pain begets pain
On this unstable foundation, layer upon layer of experience accumulates, all distorted just a little, into a world view and a set of emotional reflexes that keep us set up for pain.
It’s no way to live.
Because the fact is, even if your circumstances can’t change (which is rare), how you manage them can.
What you bring to them can.
What you contribute to them can.
And what you take from them can.
Over time these factors influence if not determine what your circumstances are.
One circumstance becomes the key ingredient for the next. And so on.
Until we wake up to how we interact with our circumstances we will tend make bad situations worse, and prevent good situations from being all they can be.
Because pain begets pain.
The only way out is through
The first step in transforming this situation is to recognize yourself as separate from your circumstances. To realize that your circumstances come and go, while you remain.
That you are bigger than, more important than and not at all defined by your context.
Your context may be grim. But it is not who you are.
This is important, because if you take a stride in the direction of positive change, you will set off a chain of events.
Your context will react.
Changing an aspect of your approach will cause ripples in your life.
But it’s chosen pain, not the kind foisted on you by your conditioning.
And it’s constructive because it comes from a movement toward health.