What’s Your Pain Teaching You?

What’s Your Pain Teaching You?


Right now, there’s more than enough pain to go around. The pain of losing a job .The pain of losing your dream home. The pain of being one of the survivors in the all too frequent announcement of yet more downsizing. The pain of watching loved ones go through one or all of these things.

We’ve got plenty of physical pain right now, too. Flare ups of stress-related health problems. Accidents, which just seem to be more prevalent when things are not going well. Colds and the flu hit more frequently when people are under stress, too

Yep. There are a lot of ways we’re “feeling the pain.” And we are probably telling ourselves, “This is not right. I should not have to feel pain.”

That’s only true if you’re dead. There is a reason for pain. It helps you move fast to change what you are doing.

Hand in the car door? Yikes! You changed that fast. Even slow pain helps you learn quicker. Remember your first love and how much it hurt when it ended? You vowed “I’m not doing that again!”  And the next time you probably were a bit more discerning, a little pickier, maybe even a little slower with the “I love you’s.”

How about the pain of doing something physically dumb? Like putting your hand on the oven rack after you’ve had it preheating at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes. Next time you will use the over mitt. Right?

Pain can tell us something needs attention, too. That “hot spot” on your left ankle? Use some moleskin now or you will have a nasty blister by the time you’re done with the hike .The stomach cramps that come when you have yourself convinced that only YOU can do everything remains to be done between now and Easter—of 2010?You’re on an express bus to StressCity. Get off now!

Pain tells us there’s a problem. Maybe it’s physical, like a stone in your shoe. Maybe it’s systemic, like a finance industry gone totally mad. Every time there is pain, there is a chance to deal with a problem. We need to use pain–to help us pay attention to our legitimate problems.

We need to watch for it and wring every single morsel of intelligent action out of it.

The only tragedy in feeling pain is if we don’t change course as a result of the warning. That’s true whether it’s knee surgery or the balance in your checking account. Pain helps you grasp the need to stop doing what you’re doing much more quickly that you would in its absence.  Pain is a good thing.

The bad thing is when we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling it. There is a lot of money going into advertising built around the message that we should never feel pain .We can all eliminate all pain in our lives if we just take the right drugs, buy the right consumer goods, and drive the right cars. With that as a back drop, it’s easy to resent pain instead of embracing it so you can use it.

Pain comes to help us go in a new direction. It hurts—no doubt about that. But that doesn’t make it bad. The pain of childbirth or athletic achievements demonstrate this well. To do what we value, what we dream of, what we think is the most important thing in the world to get done is going to involve pain sometimes. Beats a blinking arrow every time for encouraging a change of course.

Use your pain.You don’t have to love it—in fact if you did, I’d worry. But respect it.It is an honored teacher and a difficult but genuine friend.

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