February 11, 2013

Sit with Pain

It seems that we've been taught to reject painful feelings and do everything we can to either reduce or get rid of them. At times, it works, although in some instances it is only temporary and in others it can be destructive. I have a habit of making myself feel better whenever I'm in emotional pain. I read, I eat, I distract myself, I talk to someone. After all, why wallow in this misery if I can do something about it? Besides, it doesn't feel good anyway. However, recently I tried a different approach because my usual remedial tactics didn't seem to work. I noticed that while I'm in pain, I fail to be fully present in the process. So, I took the most basic step and kept saying to myself out loud, "I'm in pain, I'm in pain." Weird as it seems, the pain became more real and intense, yet there was a part of me that felt relieved. That's because I temporarily let go of my defenses and admitted to the profoundness of my experience without trying to alleviate it, ignore it, modify it, or otherwise "deal" with it. The process of it was excruciating and torturous and the reality of pain lasted for a long time. But in the end, the monster in the closet started to lose its threatening grip. Although fully admitting to pain and sitting with it isn't enough to move on with and incorporate the experience into our lives, it's an essential first step.

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