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No one likes to feel emotional or physical pain, so medicines have been invented to block out both. People use alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs to medicate and numb their emotional pain. Why do we have so much pain and hurt in our lives?

Let’s look at two different types of pain.

  • Firstly, there is physical pain. Physical pain is vital in that it tells us there is something wrong with our body. Pain is our first indication that we are injured and help is required for our wellbeing.
  • Secondly, there is emotional pain. Emotional pain acts to warn us that something is not working in the way we are living our lives, and we need to make changes.

Vivien’s early childhood in war-torn Europe was horrific. Now in her fifties, she is experiencing difficulties in several areas of her life. Her business is on the verge of closing down, she feels isolated from the few close friends she has and she is experiencing such intense emotional pain that she is taking tranquillizers. Vivien’s emotional pain is telling her she has a choice: either she can reassess her life and work through her early childhood pain, or she can continue to drug herself in the hope that the underlying emotional pain will disappear.

Emotional pain and hurt occur when we resist what is happening in us and around us.

All of us have devised strategies to resist the pain and hurt we find so discomforting. Resisting, in its many guises, is the most universal way we know to protect ourselves from such hurt and pain. Conventional wisdom maintains that resistance is a sign of strength and that acceptance is a sign of weakness.

There is another way to look at acceptance. The more we are able to accept our pain, the more we are able to diminish it. The degree to which a birthing mother can accept and flow with her contractions is the degree to which she will move through the pain and facilitate the baby’s birth. Similarly, the degree to which we can accept our painful feelings is the degree to which we can diminish them and move forward in our lives. This is easier said than done. The natural human response to pain, both physical and emotional, is to resist and withdraw. Fighting the pain in this way actually increases and entrenches it. Covering over or distracting ourselves from our pain (by eating, sleeping, working, reading, shopping, watching N, gambling, etc.) is a form of resistance.

Will emotional pain always be with us? The short answer is yes. In addition to pain’s function as a warning system, there is another reason for its presence in our lives.

Pain is an integral part of love.

When we love, we place the loved one in our hearts. This makes us vulnerable and open to pain because there is always the possibility that the loved one will leave. As a society, our fear of pain is reaching phobic proportions. In Australia, our massive dependence upon tranquillisers is well-documented. If we are determined not to accept pain, we need to be aware that by doing this we are simultaneously cutting ourselves off from love.