On pain

If you’ve been reading this blog frequently recently, you’d know I had something of a “growth spurt” lately. And like in the physical realm, this kind of a spurt comes with “growing pains”. Literal aches and discomfort from having to stretch in ways that are new and unfamiliar.

Even those of us who have been doing this for years now, continue to be stretched when crucial moments of spiritual growth present themselves. So I always find it a bit odd when people look surprised to see me in a “bad place” and ask some version of “But you should know better!” or “You’re familiar with this!

My self work has been mostly about meeting myself. And working on your emotional self is quite working out your physical body. You’ll address different parts on different days/phases. You’ll try out different styles and techniques that work for you. You’ll work out a pace that you’re comfortable with. And the goal is to always push your limits a little. Allow those muscles to flex, tear, repair, build back.

So in this pursuit of understanding myself in a deeper way, I’ve realised more and more that this cannot be about the self I believe I am, or the self I think I want to be, or the self that others think I am.

It has to be me, just as I am.

As simplistic as that may sound, let me assure you it is not. Forget the personas and masks we wear for the outside word, for a second. In all the years of exploring this, the most astounding discoveries have been the masks I have been wearing for myself. The ways in which I deftly hide parts of myself, from myself. The lies I so desperately want to believe about myself. The notions and aspirations I hold, against all odds, even knowing full well that they’re not coming from the truest space of who I am.

And so, this work of meeting myself continues to be challenging. I am in the thick of one such spurt. Where I am opening up a part of me that has been largely hidden away even from myself for the greater part of my adult life.

I am in the process of meeting that part again, acknowledging the pain it is bringing to the surface and understanding hat this is the very reason I have kept it hidden away — it’s too fucking painful to revisit.

Pain is scary. The fear of it has kept me away from going there. It has kept me away from growth. And away from myself.

However, there is a lot to be said about how years of healing does add up. I have known this, but am experiencing it first-hand now. The very same pain now feels manageable, even though it is no less intense. This is my work paying off.

This is like dreading doing push-ups for years, working through the pain of it, training in the smaller movements and building muscles that can assist the larger movement. And suddenly one day realising you can do a full push up. It’ll still painful, but you’ve trained yourself to take the pain as a part of the process.

I feel not just ready, but willing to do this. It feels not just necessary, but pressing to do this now. Because here’s the thing. Difficult experiences make us cold, and close up. Healing makes us thaw, and allows expansion. In my work, and in myself, I see how unhealed pain makes us choose resilience, at a cost. Healing that pain offers the valuable experience of tenderness. And tenderness has, in my experience, 100% proven to be the way to grow and find love.

So here I am. Having crossed the threshold of this very dark place, still hanging out at the door. The urge to turn around and bolt is strong everyday. But with a little help and some ground practices in my everyday life, I am able to stay.

The thing that prompted this, this time around, is the active need for a better tomorrow, not just for me, but the community around me, the kind of work I lend to it, and the way in which I live as a part of humanity. And something inside of me has been nudging on, telling me that hate and hardness, by itself, in a pure, misdirected way, is not going to be useful.

New beginnings require love. And that requires healing.

My therapeutic journey has so far been quite focused on “moving on”. That is also training, that tells me healing itself is an act of fixing something that’s broken. For nearly two years, as I was training to be a practitioner in Family Constellations, I have been familiar with the broader concept of meeting myself as I am, and coming into agreement with my life as it is. I have uttered these words with heartfelt intention at least a hundred times by now. But I feel pushed to embody them in a way that requires acknowledging certain truths of my own life now.

Coming to terms with myself just the way I am. Requires owning up to the painful experiences that have shaped me too.

This is no longer just about therapy or healing. It has become important to do this as a professional in the line of work I now operate in, but more urgently as a person in this world. So I can understand myself better, my traumas and my experiences, that shape my beliefs, my prejudices, my biases, my capacity to connect with other humans, and understand where they may be coming from. Even if they’re at the diametric opposite end of the spectrum from where I am.

So much of what we are taught is about “moving on” is focused on getting better, manning up, holding up. All of this inherently involves suppressing pain. And it makes us lose touch with the sides of ourselves that aren’t able to do these things so often.

As I realised last week in therapy, many times when we have been through a traumatic event, we don’t want to move on. In a single session I felt a lifetime of moments of wanting to grieve. Wanting to cry. Wanting to feel the pain of what had happened. But my training didn’t allow it. And a lifetime of not allowing that, and only looking at resilience as a measure of health, has meant not knowing the ways in which I am in fact still broken.

Being broken has never been favourable place to be. Fixed, is always the aspiration. But even healing requires being broken for some time.

In that single session I suddenly came into contact with the part of me that still hurts from all those experiences. Like a wound scratched open, still feeling a world of pain.

A person in pain, in touch with that pain, cannot man up, or move on. We may find ways to cope and function so that life doesn’t come to a halt, but how often do we revisit that pain and process it? How often do we go back and heal it, so it can move through us in a healthy way? So that it doesn’t fester and create dynamics within and around us, affecting how we are as human beings, how we relate to other human beings, and how it manifests in our beliefs and actions?

But more importantly, how can I heal a wound I am not willing to pull the bandaid off of, and let breathe? How can I heal unless I look at the wound and really feel all of the pain first? It’s taking a lot of empathy, compassion and caring for myself at the moment. Something I still struggle to extend to myself to the degree necessary in moments like this. But I am getting there.

The only way out of the pain, is through it.

One year ago: Shine
Two years ago: When you wake up in the evening and the day is shot

One thought on “On pain

  1. Pingback: Life around here – haathi time

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