I’m not a masochist.
If anything, I’ve been the complete opposite for my entire life. I’ve avoided pain at all costs.
Feeling anger, sadness, or disappointment is a sure sign that something’s wrong with me. Be it a fleeting moment of discomfort or a persisting one, I’ve made sure to swiftly eradicate it.
Looking back somewhere in my mid-20s, I was a little hard on myself. I relentlessly tried to keep myself in a constantly happy state of mind.
There’s nothing wrong with constant happiness, of course, but there was something deeply wrong with my way:
I didn’t let myself hurt.
How many times a day do we stop ourselves from hurting? How many self-talks do we have about not letting something annoy us again? How much do we numb the pain?
Let’s put aside for a moment everything we have ever learned about positivity. Let’s, for once, experience it for ourselves and, thus, define its real meaning. Because this is what I’ve done.
Stating the obvious, there are daily annoyances which we can’t escape. Too much traffic, no hot water, a business deal that goes wrong, favorite earring is lost, fight with a coworker, fight with our partner, weather is crap, neighbor is noisy.
There’s no limit to what can go wrong and to what might infuriate us—let’s make peace with this truth. But, how do we manage it? How do we manage this thing that has greatly impacted our mental and emotional health?
After years of realizing that numbing my pain hasn’t worked out well, I’ve chosen to manage my pain by letting it be. My method is simple, yet challenging at the same time. Instead of finding ways to relieve my pain, I find ways to sit with it.
If I feel like crying, I cry. If I feel angry, I get angry. If I feel disappointed, I hurt.
First, I allow my body to go through the physical process of pain. Then, I give my mind the space it needs to unleash its thoughts and confusions. Most importantly, I don’t judge my feelings nor my contemplations; I don’t beat myself up for it; I don’t avoid it.
Depending on the intensity of the experience, it could take from days to months for the pain to subside. However, the shocking, most wonderful news is that pain eventually diminishes.
S.N. Goenka had successfully adopted this concept in his Vipassana meditation for years and taught it to thousands of students. I, myself, had enrolled in two courses, and the result was astonishing as always: observe the pain you feel in your body whilst sitting still in your meditation posture, and the pain will go away.
This is not magic; this is pure natural intelligence. Let it hurt so you can let it heal. When we think of healing, we should think of adaptation, not avoidance. At first, it might feel terrible.
Suppose you’ve endured the loss of someone dear to you. The pain is clearly too great to deal with, and accepting reality might be out of the question.
However, we need to understand that inviting this particular pain in is what will make it go away. It will, trust me. One day, after days or weeks of accepting all your emotions and letting them out, you will feel ready to let go of what has weighed you down.
The more we brush our pain under the rug, the stronger it comes back. Let’s give our agony the chance to heal us—because it can.