Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stopping the Pain

A friend who is going through separation, and probably divorce also, spoke of the confusion of feelings that has come up, and continues to come up in his process of transitioning his relationship with his wife. “I didn’t know what to do, or what I wanted. All I knew is that I wanted the pain to stop.” I found this to be an extremely eloquent statement, a very clear expression of that unclear feeling, all too commonly unearthed when life offers an unavoidable, and unchosen major jolt. It is really what my clients hire me to help them to do: “Stop the pain. Please just help me stop the pain!!”

We are very good at getting ourselves into pain: get up every morning, do our lives, make a few mistakes along the way and BAM! PAIN! Now what?? No one told us life would be this difficult when we were sweet innocent young children. Well, maybe even that is a fantasy. Most small children get to witness their fair share of struggling adults around them. In that respect maybe it is an unspoken truth that we all know somewhere deep inside; yes we too are destined for struggle and Pain.

Wouldn’t it be nice if as a holiday gift to ourselves we could find ways, at least a little bit, and maybe even just for a short space of time to, “stop the pain”? It really should not be that hard. Pain is all about our wounded hearts. We wound ourselves, and allow the people around us to wound us also. First step in undoing our pain is to take personal responsibility for all the things that we know we can take responsibility for. Our adult ability, prerogative, and privilege to make choices is very powerful and very freeing.

So what do the Holiday’s and Healing have in common? Plain and simple, they are both occasions for pure loving. The first place to offer that love, and sometimes the hardest, is to our selves, to our own hearts. The wise advice I offered my friend is simply this: Healing and loving are two sides of the same coin. To offer yourself healing, allow yourself to be and feel loved, truly loved. So often people skip themselves and move directly to all the people around them for whom they feel responsibility. Altruism looks good on the surface, but it really is only altruistic if the person making the offering is strong enough to be able to make an offering. As anyone who has ever traveled on an airplane knows, if you don’t have oxygen, you will not be able to offer oxygen to your traveling child or other loved companion. Likewise, if your heart has been abandoned, it will not have the strength and capacity to love well.

This holiday season make an offering of love to yourself. Spend some time thinking about what will nourish you, inspire you, make your heart sing, and find a way to allow yourself that gift. Think of it as an offering, not just to you, but to all the people around you that you love the most. Imagine a world where all the people in it were content, nourished, and felt loved. Then do what you can to make yourself one of those people.

May you feel and be love, this holiday season and always.




Anonymous said...

I have no idea how I came upon your blog but, now that I have, I feel compelled to respond. Loving ourselves means loving all of ourselves which of course means also loving our pain. You are confusing denial for love! That said, I agree with you that many clients come to us to stop the pain. And I think it is our responsibility as therapists to hold them in this pain and explore it meaning and value while simultaneously working to relieve it. If we simply work to relieve the pain without addressing its value, we are denying our clients the opportunity to grow. So, I don't agree that the advice you gave your friend is particularly wise. Healing and loving may be both sides of the same coin; however, pain doesn't necessarily need to be healed directly. Pain is often the expression of an invitation of the heart - to listen – perhaps to experience its deep vulnerability, perhaps to bring our attention to a way of being that doesn’t serve us, perhaps to teach us true empathy…the list goes on and on. So while loving ourselves and other is ultimately what life is all about, to skip over the messages and learnings, to lose the nuance, in the name of stopping the pain, in most instances, doesn’t serve. In my experience, without adequate incorporation of the lessons, life has a funny way of dragging us through the mud over and over again. So perhaps it would have been more useful to invite your friend to notice the pain and to notice the part of him that was observing it. So the pain, while it might have felt all-consuming, was not all of who he is. This, in and of itself, often has a powerful pain reducing effect and can make people feel empowered. And then from the place of the observer, he could ask his pain what it had come to share, and the bountiful wisdom of the body would most likely spew forth. The lessons, I suspect, would have been many and powerful and also unbelievably useful. Your friend would likely experience even greater peace and be all the more wise in the process.
By the way, children experience pain; they just don't observe adults experiencing pain.

Donna Dallal-Ferne, LMFT said...

Thank you for your comment, "anonymous"! I agree with you that our pain is an integral and very important part of us, and something that we should not shun, but embrace. Embracing, and accepting pain, exploring and digging into it, etc. is obviously very important. My advice to my friend (not a client, so offered in a different context) was not offered to encourage him to stop his pain, but a reminder that as part of his overall healing, something I believe we all spend a life time doing, it is important for him to remember to love himself. And, that until he does and can love himself, it is and will be difficult to fully understand his pain, or to be available to all the people he most wants to be available to.