BY SOFO ARCHON
Pain is an inseparable part of life, and so everyone experiences it to varying degrees. Only a few, however, understand what pain really is and where it comes from. Hence, most people don’t know how to effectively deal with it.
Here I’d like to share with you three hard-hitting truths about pain that most people hate to admit, yet which are tremendously important to understand and accept, if we want to overcome suffering and find contentment.
1. Pleasure and pain tend to go hand-in-hand.
Most people seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, not realizing that pain and pleasure are actually two sides of the same coin — you can’t have one without the other.
But why is that so, I can hear you asking.
Because pleasure, just like pain, is a temporary feeling. Like a wave that rises high above the sea’s surface is bound to soon fall and disappear into the water, in the same way pleasure arises in our consciousness and soon afterwards dissolves and disappears into nothingness.
Pleasure comes quickly, and goes just as quickly. And, although it feels great while it lasts, after it’s gone the lack of it can be very painful to those who’re attached to it. Think, for example, of the intensely pleasurable experience of sexual orgasm. It feels amazing as long it’s there, but once it disappears, the absence of it can lead to emotional discontent.
Pleasure and pain tend to go hand-in-hand, so the more we seek pleasure, the more we attract pain into our lives, which in turn makes us thirsty for even more pleasure, thus creating a never-ending cycle of suffering.
(Note: To avoid misunderstanding, I’m not suggesting here that pleasure is bad and that we should avoid it. My point is simply that when become attached to pleasure and make it our life’s top priority, we’ll often be disappointed and hurt when we don’t experience it.)
2. Pain is often necessary for personal growth.
Pain is, in a sense, a wake-up call — it awakens us to the fact that there’s something wrong with the way we live, and urges us to take action in order to correct it.
When we neglect pain, it tends to increase over time, until a point comes when it becomes unbearable and forces us to do something about it.
Therefore, pain isn’t a bad thing, as people tend to believe. On the contrary, it can be quite helpful, if we pay attention to what it has to show us and learn from it. In fact, pain is an integral part of spiritual growth. As Carl Jung put it, “there is no birth of consciousness without pain.”
With pain comes the need for increased intelligence. Pain is compelling us to understand why we experience it, so that we can figure out how to cure its underlying condition. Seen this way, pain is a doorway to happiness.
So, next time you find yourself in pain, instead of trying to suppress or distract yourself from it, ponder on this: “What can I learn from my pain?”
3. By dealing with the symptoms of pain alone, you won’t remove the pain.
To get rid of a tree, you need to remove it from its very roots. In the same way, if you want to get rid of pain, you need to remove its root causes.
Unfortunately, that’s far from what most people do.
Do you feel sad? Don’t worry, have a few drinks and you’ll soon forget your worries. Do you still feel sad? Well, take a couple of these pills and you’ll immediately see your sadness vanish into thin air.
As idiotic as the above scenario might seem, this is pretty much how many people try to deal with pain. The result? Even more pain.
By choosing not to listen to our pain, we’re unable to deal with it. Even if we find a ‘quick fix’ that helps us to not feel it for a while, that doesn’t in any way help us to actually get rid of it. It’s like taking a painkiller when you’re hurting from a physical injury — although your consciousness might not register the pain under the influence of the drug, the wound is still there, and you’ll feel the pain again as soon as the drug’s effect is over.
By treating pain on a symptoms-level, we don’t address the source where the symptoms are sprouting from. As a result, over time our pain tends to grow heavier and more complicated, becoming harder to deal with.
Life can be quite painful at times, but it’s in our hands to minimize the amount of suffering that we experience, by embracing our pain, paying attention to it and learning the important lessons that it has to teach us.