No one likes pain. Yet, it’s impossible to live a pain free life. Somewhere along the way, there will be pain. The pain will come either intentionally or unintentionally.
Intentional pain is like someone who sets out to run a mile who has been a couch potato. You simply can’t do it. You have to take incremental, daily walks and jogs to reach the goal. Calf muscles will ache. Breathing will be laborious and short winded. But, endure the pain, and soon, a mile can be effortless run without pain. No pain, no gain. We all know that. Making our bodies suffer to get in shape is good, intentional pain.
Then, there is the unintentional pain that can afflict us. An accident, a disease, or stress can cause body and emotional pain. Stress, for instance, can cause shoulder and neck muscles to tighten along with headaches. It can cause digestive problems too.
Emotional pain is often unintentional pain. It cuts straight to our heart and soul. Life is filled with emotional bumps, bruises, strains, and brokenness.
Living pain free emotionally is impossible too whether that pain is intentional or unintentional. There are many unhealthy ways to cope. Some may build a wall around their heart and vow to never be hurt again. After all, people hurt us. Mean-spirited, critical, and controlling people throw spears into our psyche that wound and hurt. Some wounds never heal. Some wounds scab over. Some leave scar tissue. Thus, one way of coping with emotional pain is to withdraw into a cave where no one can hurt us again.
No one is going to live in emotional pain either if they can fix it. And fix it, we try with home remedies which are many. Some, for example, seek pleasure to deal with the pain because pleasure makes us feel good if only for a short time. Pleasure is something from which we derive happiness and joy. There’s nothing wrong with that. The wrong happens when we live for pleasure to kill emotional pain. Then, we are in trouble big time.
Food, sex, buying new things, helping others, and the accomplishment of a diffult task all bring us pleasant feelings , but the pleasure in those can lead to unhealthy addictions when they are over zealously used to kill emotional pain. Even shop-lifting can bring a person excitement and pleasure and be addictive.
A woman I knew had all of the appearance of ‘having it together’. She had the ideal husband, two wonderful sons, a nice house and car, a good job, and always looked neat and trim. She was faithful in church attendance and actively served in various capacities. I was shocked one day when she confessed that she was a compulsive thief. “I can’t go into a store and buy something without sticking an item in my purse and not paying for it. I’m so afraid I will get caught. But the feeling of success when I walk out the door with unpaid merchandise hidden in my purse is exhilarating. I can’t help but do it. How can I overcome this? You are the only one I’ve ever told of my kleptomania.”
I tried to help her, but my counseling skills were and are limited and inadequate to help someone in the throes of addiction. I recommended a professional counselor who she sought. She slowly but surely solved the issues that had caused her addiction.
For this lady, she tried to kill her emotional pain that was rooted in some painful experience she had had. But, her efforts to kill the pain caused her more pain with the guilt and shame she suffered. Plus, she had the accompanying fear of getting caught. She wanted to live emotionally pain free but chose the wrong way to kill her pain.
That’s true of all addictions whether it be kleptomania or anything else. The pain killer we use produces more pain.
Can we live pain free? No. But, we can deal with pain and manage it in healthy rather than unhealthy ways.
How? By getting it out. Healthy ways of ‘getting it out’ include talking to a ‘safe person’ (see my post on safe and unsafe people) or talking to a godly professional counselor like I did and do with my pastor-counselor friend, Roger Bennett.
I read Christian self-help books Roger recommends. They have helped me resolve emotional pain in positive ways.
Sometimes when I feel the boiling pot is ready to explode, I simply take a walk and do some self-talk which always helps calm me down and gives me a different perspective.
And, there is simply quiet mediation which I daily practice. Just listening to the Lord in quiet as He reveals my issues and surrounds me with peace like mountains surrounding a valley.
I also journal and have found this a healthy, good way to ‘get it out,’ reflect, and change for the better.
The key, I’ve found, is not trying to live a pain free life which is impossible. The key is processing the pain in a healthy way to grow emotionally maturity.
The Scripture affirms this. “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith to produce in you the quality of endurance. Let this process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become a person of mature character with the right sort of independence” James 1:2-4 Phillips translation).
Pain can indeed be a welcome friend if we can back off and process it through healthy ways that lead to self understanding and awareness which build emotionally maturity.