As strange as it may sound, emotional pain is an experience that I have come to appreciate, deeply.
No, I’m not a masochist. When I feel bad, or hurt, or upset in any way I still want to be free of that painful experience.
But along the way, I have come to see my pain in a new light.
I don't avoid it anymore. Instead, I found a new way of appreciating pain. It has opened me to more joy, more peace with myself and with others.
In the past, my usual way of dealing with pain was to suppress or repress it. Faced with emotional suffering, I tried to push the uncomfortable feelings into the dark corners of my mind. From those corners, the pain would eventually find its way into the body, appearing as disease.
Such ways of coping are not wise, loving, or effective in the long run. When I rejected my emotional pain, I was rejecting a natural response from my mind that was calling me to healing.
Emotional pain is, in fact, an expression of an intelligent inbuilt mechanism that tells me - "hey buddy, there is an issue in your thought-system. Please pay attention".
But somehow this message gets misunderstood. Instead of relating to the pain as a natural, healthy function of my mind, the experience of pain is occluded by the idea that "I should not be feeling this way."
When pain appears, I can easily be tempted to judge it. I somehow believe that it judges me, condemns me. I believe that my pain means something (bad!) about me. I assume that the presence of pain signals that there is something at fault with me.
If I adopt this view, I will naturally want to reject the pain, to suppress or repress it. And in so doing I will not allow pain to serve its natural function in my life.
But if I want to be at peace and be truly healthy, I must learn to see uncomfortable emotions differently. I must find a way to relate to unpleasant feelings in a way that does not move me to reject them, but can allow me to embrace them, and be served by them.
I'll try to illustrate the point. Please forgive me for the nerdy metaphor:
Let’s say I’m Elon Musk. I am driving along in my Tesla model 3 on a sunny day in Silicon Valley. Suddenly a signal appears on the car's swanky control panel. It's a problem in the battery system.
Now imagine Elon, upon seeing the signal, stopping and getting out of the car. Through his flowing tears, he screams to the heavens - "Woe is me! I'm so bad! I'm so broken!"
Desperate, and with shaking hands, he takes out a wrench from the boot. He looks in terror through the front window to the flashing signal inside the car.
“Bad signal!” barks Elon, as he smashes the control panel into tiny toxic smithereens. "Bad, bad signal! Don't you ever come back! Don't ever dare tell me that I'm broken!"
The point, that I am ever so subtly trying to make here, is that I used to be like this mad Elon (but without the money). I used to believe that the pain I was feeling meant there is something wrong with me.
But what a relief to discover that emotional pain means nothing about me. The appearance of uncomfortable emotions is simply a natural, healthy function of my mind, signalling an error that is happening on the level of thought.
Pain only (and always only) indicates that I am believing that I am separate from Love. Because this is an impossible idea, when I use my mind to believe that I am separate from Love, I'm in fact entertaining an impossible idea. My mind is being misused. It hurts.
Pain is like an alert system that goes off every time I misuse my mind to believe in separation. It allows me to recognize the error in my thinking, and to thus remember that I am never separate from the Love that made me. How can I not be grateful?
So now, when pain comes up - instead of pushing it away I simply open the hood of my mind and look. Once I'm under the mind's bonnet, I can identify the short circuit.
I say - "Oh, yes, I believe that I am separate from Love. How silly of me. Thank you, pain for allowing me to recognize this little glitch."
I then take my pliers. I reconnect the wires and re-ignite the engine. I get back in the car, rev up the silent electrical engine. I look at my control panel with love. Waiting to see if any signals come up. All clear.
And with the wind in my hair, I drive away singing my appreciation to the Lord of all engines, and to his lead mechanic.
“Thank God it's not true that I am separate!
Thank God I remember that Love is all there is!
And thank God this can never change.”
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