To relate to your pain you have to love yourself, part 4

Our tendency to cling to the agencies of pain comes from our fear of lack.

Of loss.

And to an underlying, even unconscious, sense of separation from the rest of everything.

From each other. From the world. From God.

From ourselves.

It’s that separation from self on which the whole thing rests. When you deny some aspect of yourself, you are cut off from the whole.


We grab onto whatever we’re used to. A known quantity. Even if it does not serve us. Even if it’s destructive.

A behavior.

A fantasy.

A situation.

A relationship.

For fear of being left with nothing.

Not realizing that our birthright and our most natural state is to live in connection and prosperity, based on the full, free expression of who we are.

Fullness of life.

But the only way to experience fullness of life is to do it with your whole self. So you have to practice reaching out to the various parts of your being.

Even the parts that hurt.

Because you are your own access point to the richness and fullness that is possible in this life.


A heritage of pain

We have experienced pain throughout our history as individuals and as a group. Harshness, darkness and catastrophe are stamped on our brain stems.

As a result, each of us, to varying degrees, experiences a lack of trust in our own well being.

The simple fact that our lifespan is limited creates a pressure nobody can escape.

This lack of trust is like a net, capturing and accumulating more and more pain, more and more distrust of the universe. We pass it on to our kids and they create a new version of it, adding details from their own experience.

And as a group we weave it into our social fabric. We devise systems to work around it and prevent it’s presence from becoming too noticeable.

We fashion from it a context.

Such a context does not necessarily support a trusting view of the universe. It makes it hard to establish a baseline of confidence that everything we need to thrive right here, right now in the world, is all around us all the time.

But it’s important to remember that this is a context of our own making.

And if we made one context, we can make another.


Stuck at the starting line

The alternative is avoidance. Denial. Pretending the pain is not there, or living with it and with the distorting influence it has on your perspective.

But trying to avoid pain requires flight from the now.

You have to check out.

And when you check out your life passes you by.

You become ineffective on your own behalf, and on the behalf of those you love.

Because denial keeps you from facing pain. It keeps you from going to to the place in yourself where pain lives. And if you don’t face pain you can’t let go of it. And if you don’t let go of it you remain stuck in it.

The only way to really deal with pain is to head into it, face it, make room for it in your day.

It’s taking up space anyway. More than it should. More than it really needs to. When you avoid pain it starts to overstep its bounds and crowd out other things.

Things you need.

Like joy.

And relationship.

And creativity.

And stuff.

When you don’t face pain and learn to move with it, it becomes an obstacle to life.

And your context does not change.

The cycle of pleasure and pain continues.


Altering course

The first step in revising your context in favor of fullness is to face the pain you’re already in. And to learn not to add to that pain unnecessarily.

Above all you accomplish this by having compassion for yourself, and by allowing that compassion to advise you in making choices that support full life. Even if those choice are hard, or bring challenge.

Choices made moment to moment can keep your situation fine-tuned for prosperity. With practice and attention, you develop the perspicacity to discern the best choices, and the reflexes to make them quickly.

Through a slow steady adjustment of momentum, you can turn the ship around.

By stopping to encounter pain when it comes, and not turning to the next convenient form of imbalance, we can begin to arrest the cycle of pleasure and pain in which we tend to operate.

The counter-intuitive alternative to that cycle, is to accept the pain, embrace it, and engage with it time and again in a constructive way intended to resolve it.

It runs against instinct, reflex and the demands of the fear-stamped brain stem.

And it feels hopeless when you’re trying to do it. Because you’re not just altering your own momentum and perspective, but those of your ancestors, which are built into you.

Like the color of your eyes.


Changing the color of your eyes

But with enough practice, you begin to see above the pain. You get a view of life’s expanse, and a more certain awareness that although life contains pain, it is not contained by it.

As you engage in this process you engage in the exploration of your inner landscape. You seek and find aspects of yourself previously hidden or held captive by pain you did not want to face.

You stop clinging to the agencies of pain that hold you in conflict with the flow of your life and the movements of the universe.

You step into connection.

Into sync.

Into trust that your life as it is now contains everything you need to fashion for yourself the life you want.

Into a willingness to act on the belief that fullness is waiting for you beyond the negativity you may have come to rely on.


  • Dk Brainard

    Great article Peter. “The counter-intuitive alternative to that cycle, is to accept the pain, embrace it, and engage with it time and again in a constructive way intended to resolve it.” That’s the gold right there. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Dk,

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found something useful here!

  • Amanda

    Awesome, as always!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for reading, Amanda!