Have you ever gotten a really good massage? You know, the ones that leave you a little sore the next day and even hurt a little in the midst of receiving. The massage therapist pushes on muscles that have been under or overworked and you breathe deeply to take your mind off the soreness radiating from the tissue deep within. Sometimes it tickles, sometimes you tense up, and sometimes it simply feels on fire. Your body releases tension and toxins, and slowly but surely your body relaxes and realigns.
This may sound terrible to some of you, and that’s fair, but I invite you to stick around and keep reading. It is true, this kind of massage is not for everyone. It certainly may not be the relaxing experience that you had imagined for a day at the spa. The deep tissue work that hurts can be too much for some people and they happily prefer, and are most content, with a Swedish massage. Perhaps you even think pain is a waste of money when calm unwinding is on the agenda. And in the realm of massage, this is fine and good.
But what about the rest of your life? Are there places you avoid pain and this avoidance also keeps you from relief, joy, perhaps even freedom?
There are things in every part of our lives that require a bit of pain to reach the goodness and enjoyment on the other side. Be this getting into an exercise routine, working out the pain of your marriage, learning guitar, even going to the dentist. Our muscles are sore from lifting weights, our hearts are tender as we try new ways of interacting with our spouse, our fingers hurt and our frustrations high as we strum a guitar for the first time, and our mouth poked at, maybe even bleeding, as the dentist assures the health of our gums and teeth.
We learn to withstand these things because we trust they are ultimately for our good or things we want. We accept the temporary pain and make peace with it. What seems like a terribly uncomfortable experience actually leads us to a greater joy. And yet these experiential learning labs don’t necessarily transfer to the emotional side of our life. When the possibility of feelings of rejection or insignificance arise, we dodge and manipulate with the best of them. Why do so many of us actively avoid pain?
Because it hurts.
And that’s the point.
Not all hurt is equal and not all hurt is bad. Our relationship with pain is of utmost importance because pain usually accompanies growth. The saying “pain is temporary” couldn’t be truer and our mindset around our ability to tolerate the temporary nature of pain must be strengthened. We must learn new ways to accept pain as necessary for the lives we want to live and the men and women we want to be. We must practice ways to endure pain for the pleasure, peace, and possibility that lie on the other side.
This is not a call to run haphazardly into foolish relationships and unsafe experiences. Pain will find us; we do not need to run head on into it. However, it is an invitation to not avoid pain at all costs. Pain often times isn’t good or bad, it just is. It’s a part of our experience and a part of our life. We are not given the choice of pain or no pain, and yet we are given the complete ability in how to respond. Our journey is how we respond. Our growth is how we allow for and dare I say, embrace, the pain that comes our way.
Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.
For more on creating a new relationship with pain, email me.