THE LIFE-GIVING PURPOSE OF PAIN (vs. SUFFERING)
By Vika Miller, MA
In our culture, we’re taught that pain is the worst thing that can happen to us.
And of course, it doesn’t feel good, either. So at first look, “avoid the pain at all costs” seems perfectly reasonable.
As a result, we grow up afraid of the painful parts of our experience, often covering up, ignoring, or distracting ourselves from our “negative” feelings. We blame others when they do things that feel painful to us. We quickly reach for strategies — beliefs, food, drugs or alcohol, sex, work, entertainments — that we hope will make us feel better, because we’ve been taught that there’s no point to feeling pain.
The tragedy is that pain has a very powerful, central, profoundly Life-giving purpose in our lives. Pain is a communication from Life letting us know that we’ve become disconnected from ourselves and from Life in some important way. Very often pain begins quietly as discomfort, and as we ignore and avoid it, it continues to grow in intensity and disruptiveness, until it becomes so extreme it can stop the motion of our lives, and even the beating of our hearts. This is because Life won’t ever give up on us — it will never stop trying to get our attention, to guide us back onto a Life-giving path that deeply supports and contributes to our thriving.
This is why the only way out of pain is through. When we refuse to receive the life-restoring wisdom Life is trying to invite us into, we inevitably become haunted by the very pain we were so desperate to get away from.
So once again, we see that The Insane Society has given us a faulty road map: we are told if we want to feel better, we have to avoid our pain, when the sad truth is, avoiding our pain actually INCREASES it. In fact, it’s avoiding our pain that creates the worst experience we can have in this human life: suffering. Suffering is our alarm system frantically trying to tell us that we’re moving even farther out of connection with ourselves, with Life, and with our own very real opportunities for thriving. And it’s thriving that is the source of the genuine, sustainable, feels-wonderful happiness that we all long so deeply for.
Pain is inevitable; it’s Life saying, “dear one, your hand is on a hot stove, take it off so you don’t get burned!” Suffering is always optional; it’s Life saying, “dear one, you didn’t listen when I told you your hand was on a hot stove. Now your hand is burning badly, take it off; your wonderful Life is waiting for you in another place.” When we truly Listen, when we return to a life-giving path, the suffering and pain can stop. The message had been delivered and the Connection has been restored.
If we know to look for it, we will find within even the most excruciating pain or suffering an essential longing to be fully connected with ourselves and with Life, and a pathway back to genuine, lasting relief, security, peace, and abundant well-being.
This is why when we meet fully and compassionately with our distress, when we become willing and able to have the genuine experience our discomfort or pain in the moment, just as it is — without trying to avoid it, fix it, or change it, and also without being “captured” by it — it becomes a doorway to the fulfillment of everything we long for most.
In fact, it is our capacity for genuine presence in our own lives — our capacity to have our experience in the moment we are having it, without being “captured” by it — regardless of what that experience is, that makes authentic awareness possible. When we combine our genuine presence with authentic awareness, our access to our authentic power naturally re-emerges.
It is the trinity of genuine presence, authentic awareness, and authentic power that enables us (frees us) to make the discerning, authentic choices that bring amazing effectiveness and abundant well-being into our lives.
And it is developing a Right Relationship with our pain and suffering — as a life-giving Teacher and Guide — that is the unavoidable doorway and initiation into this world of unshakeable peace, profound security, lasting clarity, and abundant well-being that we have access to at all times, regardless of circumstances.
PRACTICES FOR TRANSFORMING & DISSOLVING PAIN
Here are some powerful, proven practices for meeting with our discomfort, pain, and distress to help us receive the Life-restoring messages they’re so passionately committed to delivering to us.
1) Shared WitnessingTM Practice (created by Eric Sucher)
2) Transforming the Pain Process (created by Susan Skye and Robert Gonzalez; adapted by Vika Miller, Eric Sucher, and Joe Mitchell)
These practices allow Life to reenter and fill us in those places that have become closed off and disconnected from Life; places that have become even more uncomfortable or painful precisely because we’ve avoided them (because we haven’t been taught how to work with them in a life-giving way).
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