The transformation of our relationship to pain
I was re-watching Matrix Reloaded the other day, the second ‘difficult’ movie in the trilogy, and for the first time I realised I disagreed with one of the many brilliant quotes in that movie. The quote was“Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
I disagreed because in my experience for myself and in working with many others in the area of transformational change, I feel pain is the source of our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.
‘Know thy Self’ was written on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It beautifully sums up the challenge of life and the journey we all go on to arrive at a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we operate and what it means to be a human being, rather than a dog being or a bird being.
Yet within our current paradigm, and when I mean current I mean at least the last 100 years, the mantra would probably be closer to “whatever you do, don’t know your Self”. Don’t listen to yourself, doubt that inner guidance and, whatever you do,don’t follow it because, if you do, you will be looked upon by others as crazy. No, it is much better to let us, the authorities, the institutions, the corporations and their public relations and marketers, tell you what is okay to think, what you should do, how you should be and what you should believe.
Is it so surprising that many of us have no idea or very little skill in how to connect to our inner wisdom, our inner guidance? Even if we do, there is often shame or guilt or embarrassment around it.
One of the great embarrassments of following our guidance is the often absence of a ‘why’. Our need for meaning and whys for everything is often not fulfilled till after we follow our guidance, and very rarely before.
Sometimes it can take years to understand the why.
‘Why did you stay in that relationship for so long?’
‘Why did you come back to Australia?’
This is where the beauty of pain kicks in.
If we look closely we notice that when we don’t have an answer that is authentic for us, we have a jolt of pain. That shame or guilt or embarrassment covers up a deeper feeling of pain, the pain of not knowing or understanding why. Often in those situations we may fob people off with a made up ‘fob-off why’. But we forget that those close to us most likely can spot an authentic why from a fob-off why, even if that fob-off why sounds well thought out and makes sense; and those that care about us, and are willing to challenge us, will let us know. ‘Your why… smells a bit fishy. I’d dig a little deeper if I were you.’
So how do we know we have found the authentic why and not just some ‘makes sense why’created by our logical mind?
As a transformational coach I know that if the person I am working with has a really good, well thought out, rational and reasonable reason for why something is so, and it makes sense, then a little alarm bell goes off in me and I know, more often than not, that they are avoiding their feelings, they are avoiding the pain. I see this is often what we do to justify our actions and avoid the pain that is there to face.
Why do we avoid facing our pain?
I would say because we have been taught to trade short, intense pain for mild, long-lasting suffering and somehow we believe that that’s a good trade off! We are conditioned to believe that pain is a sign that there is something wrong with us, in a negative sense. In other words it is a source of weakness, an embarrassment, self-indulgent or shameful. This avoidance of accepting the pain we have experienced in life and feeling the pain that is there to feel is at the core of our deep insecurities and is deeply debilitating. It is my experience and belief that when we reject and avoid our pain, we miss out on learning from one of our most valuable teachers in life. We miss the lesson of pain.
Pain is an amazing teacher that always delivers exactly what we need. Pain cracks us open to a new level of authenticity and eventually brings us to that line between living an inauthentic conditioned life and living a fully authentic unconditioned life, following our calling, sharing our unique gift and genius with the world.
Life–our higher self, that higher intelligence –can often be ruthless in its determination to bring us to that line, often kicking and screaming, trying to hold together the crumbling of our existing structures. Yet, when we let go, when we surrender to the unfolding discovery of the mystery of who we really are rather than cling desperately to the remains of who we think we are, we step into a new reality, a new realm of being, a new uncharted terrain in our journey. From this unfolding discovery we understand that pain plays a role in our growth and refinement. It teaches us a deeper acceptance of our limited sense of self and allows us the opportunity to expand beyond who we think we are.
I write this article because I strongly believe that this dynamic of trying to hold together the remnant of who we think we are and the increasing pain that desperation creates is what more and more of us are experiencing in our lives. The journey to deeper authenticity can occur like walking through a furnace and having the excesses we have accumulated over time burned away, revealing a raw, vulnerable present human being. As my friend loved to say, “There’s light at the end of the funnel! Because sometimes this journey feels like you’re being sucked backwards through one.”
When we transform our relationship to pain and we begin to acknowledge and own the pain we have experienced in life and the lessons we have learnt, we tap into a strength, a resilience, a deep spiritual power that is a beautiful gift to ourselves and the world we serve.
Pain is not something we need to seek because it will always be provided when a lesson needs to be learnt, when a deeper level of authenticity is required of you, and that lesson is always perfect in its timing and in its delivery. That’s the beauty of pain.
Ian runs ‘Being the One’ transformational courses in Melbourne with his partner, Tracy Marcuzzi.
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