Why is it that you can be looking at the most exquisite view, be in the presence of a moment of grace or beauty, be surrounded by those you love and yet be completely and utterly in pain.
Nothing can shift the agony of the torment in your body, the thoughts that circle continually, the feeling of discomfort and agitation. When pain comes, it can be overwhelming, all consuming and scary.
So why is life so hard, sometimes?
It can seem quite bewildering and unfair. While others seem to happily bounce along in life, with little setting them off course or causing stress, depression or anxiety, your experience is of deeper, more frequent, longer lasting excursions into a place where pain arises.
It can be that many things that set this off. A feeling of not quite being the same as others. A feeling of letting yourself down or being let down. A sense that things aren’t quite right or ok.
You may feel like don’t know how to play by the rules. Or setbacks that others shake off, seem to affect you more deeply and stay with you longer. Perhaps that leaves you feeling depressed, lonely or isolated.
So you may be asking yourself, why me, why time and again?
Of course I can’t know why life is painful for you, though I do know that heightened sensitivity, an experience of not being wanted for who you are or being shamed for that, a feeling that you have to mould yourself to others’ image of you can all be triggers for pain, not to mention the possibility of deep traumas such as physical or sexual abuse, violence, neglect, loss, abandonment. All these can lead to feelings of numbness, depression, anxiety or sometimes they can turn you to anger and rage. These feelings and experiences, when unaddressed, are like a slow dripping of toxins in your system. At some point they surface again in unexpected ways:
A sudden unexpected breakdown
A lashing out at someone in a way disproportionate to the offence
A deep depression
Pervasive underlying anxiety in your life
As a Psychosynthesis counsellor, my perspective on pain is this. I see pain as a symptom of a deeper calling within for healing. It’s not a feeling to push away, however difficult it feels. When you feel these points of agony or distress, a part of you is calling for attention and healing.
That healing can take place in many ways, but at the heart is having your story and your pain witnessed, received, honoured and held.
With that process is also a knowing that you are more than your pain. It isn’t what uniquely defines you, though it’s an important and sometimes dominant part of you.
Together we can look at which part of you is in pain, to offer it a kind of homecoming, away from the wilderness in which it has been banished and back into the welcome embrace of those parts of you which haven’t forgotten what it is to love yourself. With that, you may well find that the pain lessons and washes away.
Two ideas that can help
There are two Buddhist concepts which I think can also help with managing pain. The first is that suffering is universal. Those people who bounce along? They have suffering too, they experience loss, difficulty. It is common to all beings. You aren’t alone in your experience. Everyone who is human knows suffering.
The second is the idea of impermanence.
I remember hearing for the first time, that idea that all things pass. And I breathed a sigh of relief as I recognised the truth in that, that whatever state I was in, joy or sadness, anger or peace, this was a transitory experience. That goes for pain too.
This week’s Lifeline
(Please note if you have experienced a serious trauma, then you should seek the assistance of a professional counsellor or psychotherapist to support you. This exercise is not suitable for managing or reducing pain in the case of serious trauma.)
If you find yourself overwhelmed with painful feelings, this walking meditation can help.
Find a place, ideally outdoors, where you can walk silently and without fear of interruption for around 20 minutes. When you reach your starting point, take a few minutes to feel yourself really firmly planted on the ground. Notice the contact of your feet as they press into the earth, grass, sand, pebbles, floor.
Bring your awareness to your breathing for a moment or too, and once you have settled, say to yourself gently, 3 times, I have my pain and I am more than my pain.
Next move off at slow, intentional pace taking a step at a time. And know that with each step, you can let your pain run through your body and out into the ground. Continue in this mindful way, intentionally allowing your pain to move through your body and out into the ground, deep down into the earth.
When you have gone far enough, return with the same intention, allowing each step to be part of a moving through and letting go of pain.
At the end of your walk, take a few minutes to be still and allow yourself to feel the contact with the ground and connect with your breath.
Afterwards, you may want to write a few notes about your experience to help ground it.
Are you struggling? Does life feel hard or painful?
If you are struggling with emotional pain, feeling a deep depression or feeling anxious and would like to get some help, why not get in touch for a first appointment for counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott.
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Photo source: http://magdeleine.co/author/urformat/