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Do You Run From Pain?

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Pain is an interesting phenomenon.

Have you noticed how some people actively seek it, some are even willing to pay for it, some seem to be constantly in it and we can feel it physically and emotionally?   

There are those who seem to have a high pain threshold and others whimper at thought of experiencing pain. 

And the last and most baffling of all:

What might be painful to me might be absolute joy to you.

Take my son for example. I took him to play rugby one Saturday a few years ago. It was a cold February morning and, not being a rugby fan, I couldn’t face the thought of standing in the freezing weather watching and waiting for the game to finish.

So I went off to meet a friend for a drink. (I can already hear cries of terrible father. Don’t worry I watched my fair share of his matches over the years and still do to this day).

When I returned to pick him up there was clearly something wrong. He was holding his shoulder. It was nothing to worry about he said, just a bad knock on his collar bone. I offered to take him to the hospital but he said no, insisting it would be alright after a good night’s sleep.

The next morning the phone rings “Dad, can you take me to the hospital?” yes of course!  (I hope I can now hear cries of what a great dad!)   

Three hours later he’d been x-rayed and it was clear; a clean fracture of his left collarbone.  Although I had suspected it my son didn’t want to believe it because in just four weeks he was due to leave for a three-month rugby trip to Australia.  

I can remember it was the reaction of the nurses at the X-ray centre that was the most amazing.

They had poked, prodded and manipulated his shoulder prior to the x-ray and at no point did he cry out in pain. When they saw the picture and the clean break, that was now obvious, they couldn’t believe he hadn’t screamed out in agony.

He has an incredibly high pain threshold, a necessary quality for anyone wanting to play rugby.

We learn about physical pain from an early age and like any other aspect of life our response to it is programmed by the experiences we have in our formative years.

We instilled in my son a “never mind, rub it better” mentality and it has served him well ever since.

This is easy to do with physical pain because physical pain is not personal.

A pin prick feels the same to everyone even though their reaction to it might be different.

The same is not true for emotional pain.

Everyone feels emotional pain differently. For some the pain of emotion is a draining force that robs them of energy and leaves them unable to do anything. For others it is a galvanising force that gets them going with vigour.

Just as we are programmed how to deal with physical pain we are programmed how to deal with emotional pain; and how you choose to deal with your emotional pain has a much greater impact on your life.

The psychologist Carl Jung said “there is no coming to consciousness without pain”. Coming to consciousness inevitably means discovering things about yourself that you didn’t realise and perhaps won’t like. It is going to be painful and it is going to hurt.

It is not the pain that’s the problem it is what you choose to do to alleviate it.

And we all have coping strategies to help us deal with the pain.

It was Virginia Satir, an American family therapist, who identified the four core coping strategies that most of us adopt at some point:

  • Blaming: life seems easier when it’s not your fault. It is easy to blame other people, outside circumstances, governments, the economy; whatever your preference is. But it is a disempowering approach which robs you of your power.

  • Placating: avoiding conflict can seem like a good strategy when you’re already feeling pain. But it is a short term solution that just creates more problems further down the line.

  • Computing: you may know someone who becomes totally logical when they become stressed. This strategy is about becoming dissociated from the source of the pain. When you think logically you can’t feel the pain of emotion.?

  • Distracting: keeping busy is a sure fire way to stop you thinking about the pain. It can take the form of being busy at work, staying late and bring work home. It can take the form of being busy at home. Never taking a minute to sit and relax. There is always something that needs to be done in the home. Or, it can be always having something on in your social calendar.

Here’s the question:

What’s your coping strategy?

It is your coping strategies that are keeping you from dealing with the cause of the pain.

If you want to breakthrough – identify your coping strategy and you are halfway there. What will be, just a short distance, behind are the feelings that lie at the root.

In the end you will have to face up to these feelings so would you not rather do it on your terms than on someone else’s?

Dene Stuart

Dene Stuart

Chief Thinking Officer at The Thinking Revolution

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August 20, 2017 by Dene Stuart

Do You Run From Pain?

Pain is an interesting phenomenon.

Have you noticed how some people actively seek it, some are even willing to pay for it, some seem to be constantly in it and we can feel it physically and emotionally?

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