Dealing With Your Pain

by Abe Brown  ~

Her cries are still ringing in my ears as they pierced through the room. 

“It hurts!…  (sob)…  It hurts so bad!…  (crying)…  Can’t anyone do anything about this pain?…  (sob)…  It just hurts so bad!  (crying)…”   

She would quiet down for a moment, and then begin again.

“It hurts!…  It hurts so bad!…  Can’t anyone me?…”

On and on and on she cried, having let go of any and all self-control due to the pain she felt.  Joanne cried and cried that night, loudly interrupting the sleep of 30 women in the room with her and 150 men across the other side of the barrier separating the men from the women.  Our homeless shelter is used to evening interruptions, but the intensity and emotion of her cry was so poignant that you could feel it every time she opened her mouth.  Finally, we called Emergency Medical Services.

To back up for a moment, when Joanne walked into the shelter, she appeared to be fine.  She walked in on her own strength and seemed cheerful and pleasant, as always.  Upon signing in, she went right to bed and appeared to be in no pain at all.  But Joanne struggles with addiction and our best guess is that as she fell asleep and the drugs wore off, the pain, which the drugs so skillfully masked, was now being exposed.  The pain was always there but was not felt due to the illusory power of the drug. 

As I was thinking about this, I thought about how true this is in so many of our lives.  We carry pain, sometimes loads and loads of serious pain.  But we have become adept at dulling our pain.  These “pain-relievers” can be actual drugs or alcohol, or a relationship, money, success, perhaps a certain career.  It can be a level of education or attaining some great goal.  It can be an experience or event, something we do.  But the bottom line is that as long as our “drug” lasts, the pain is dulled and we don’t have to deal with it.

But the reality is that at some point, our personal drug always wears off.  The relationship may end or the job may be terminated. The money runs out. The experience loses its impact.  The praise ceases.  But whatever it is, the “pain-reliever” has faded and the underlying wound, which was always there but pushed down, is now back in our face screaming to be dealt with.  And at that moment, like Joanne, we all have a choice.

Chunk of Blue © Catherine McMillan

The choice that is before us when the pain screams again is simple:  D.E.A.L. WITH IT!

D:  Decide to Stop Medicating – At some point, we have to turn off the illusions and get real.  We have to stop medicating our pain, masking its existence in the hope that it will go away.  We need to make a choice to deal with it, though that is far more difficult than continuing to simply relieve the pain.  As it has been said, pain is mandatory, but misery is optional.

E:  Explore The Pain – Where did it some from?  Why is the pain here?  Are current events exclusively responsible or are current events simply re-igniting a pain that has been dormant within for some time?  Knowing the source of your pain helps to disarm its power and gives you a clear path to take the next step…

A:  Accept Responsibility for Getting Whole – The biggest challenge people have in dealing with their pain is the fact that in about many situations, the person in pain is not responsible for their pain.  They are sufferers of abuse or neglect or abandonment or mistreatment.  This can often lead to a bit of a “victim” mentality, where they are waiting for someone to come along and “fix” them. 

I know.  I was hurt.  And I allowed myself to become a victim, hoping that as one had hurt me, someone else would heal me.  Time and experience painfully taught me that I need to heal myself and this timeless truth:  Though others were responsible for causing my pain, only I am responsible for dealing with it.  In many cases, though I am NOT responsible for my pain, I am responsible to find healing.  No one can do that for me.

L:  Love Yourself, Respect Yourself, Be Good to Yourself – Dealing with your pain and healing your pain, as I have learned, is a journey ultimately about loving yourself, respecting yourself and being good to yourself. 

This is not some selfish, self-centered, “all about me” ego thing where all that matters is you.  It is about carving out little slices of time, precious moments where you can nurture and tend to your own needs before the needs of the world.  Taking time in the hot tub, time in the spa or with a massage therapist, time to exercise, time to prepare and eat your favorite meal, time to read a book, time with precious friends, time to volunteer, time to pray or reflect or meditate.  When we do these things, we are far better equipped to help others in the long run anyways.

Joanne did get help that night and my hope is that in my life and yours, when the medication dulls and the pain roars, we will take some time to “D.E.A.L.” with it.


AUTHOR: Abe Brown is an Entrepreneur, High-Performance Leadership Coach, Speaker, Executive and Best-Selling Author.  He’s been called the Coach’s Coach and is the President of the Certified Coaches Federation (that has trained and certified over 14,000 Life and Executive Coaches in the last 13 years), the President of Momentum Coaching and the CEO of Wellness Innovate.  Abe does Leadership and Executive Coaching and works with organizations around strategic planning, leadership and culture, workplace well-being and cultivating fully engaged employees. 

ARTWORK: “A Chunk of Blue” © Catherine McMillan. After Art & Design studies at MacEwan University, alongside her illustration work and travels, Catherine McMillan studied fine art and painting for years under the mentorship of American painter Eileen Raucher Sutton.  Catherine approaches all of her paintings intuitively. Sometimes she starts with a sketch or a clear destination in mind, but often her ideas simply and creatively evolve out of the work itself.

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