“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.” -Richard Bach
As a therapist and a human being, I am certain of one thing: pain is a gift and it has a positive purpose. It does not feel good, but it has merit and deserves respect.
Pain urges us to learn, grow and find peace within ourselves. It baits us with every experience we have with it. It stands boldly in front of us, eye to eye and nose to nose, challenging us with its taunt, “Are you finally ready to use me for your own good?”
After ending a toxic romantic relationship eight years ago, I found myself at a desperate crossroads. I could consider myself permanently broken or I could fight for my self-esteem and self –worth. It was a “do or die” time for me.
You see, we are meant to be a bit broken by our painful experiences so that we can put ourselves back together again- only differently.
I fought hard to get out of pain and the way that I did that was to learn everything that I could possibly learn from it. I realized that pain has a positive intention and that, if I could exploit it, I could become a better version of myself.
Clients come to me, the therapist, to learn how to resolve their pain. They are emotionally stuck and want immediate relief. What’s interesting is that they believe that, on some level, they lack the resources it takes to pull themselves out of the dark emotional hole that they are living in. They couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What most of us don’t realize is that it takes one moment and one decision to shift out of this resource-less feeling state into a resourceful one. Once you learn this powerful technique, you can apply it to any future discomfort and completely eliminate its lifespan.
Almost daily, I teach a powerful process to my clients that helps them make sense of their emotional struggles. It’s called: finding the purpose in the pain.
Most people don’t view pain as a teacher. Instead, pain is, more often than not, perceived as a dark, haunting entity that is pervasive, personal and permanent. When see pain as gift bearing, and open ourselves up to receive those gifts, we become the artisans of the sacred place within us. We create our inner emotional sanctuary. Pain is unauthorized in the sanctuary; only kindness, compassion, safety and love are permitted.
Every feeling that we have has a positive intention and contains an important message for us. None of us enjoy feeling pain. In fact, most of us do whatever we can to avoid it. The problem that comes when we actively avoid dealing with it is that we delay it; giving it permission to rear its ugly head in a larger and more powerful way that gets our more immediate attention.
To help you extract the purpose of your pain, I encourage you to follow these 6 steps.
Step 1: Identify the most prominent negative emotion that you feel: sadness, fear, grief, anxiety, confusion, anger.
Step 2: Locate where the feeling exists inside your body. (It can be in multiple places)
Step 3: In your mind’s eye, describe what this feeling looks like. What color is it? What shape? How dense or thin is it? How big or small is it? How much of your body does it occupy?
Step 4: See the image of your negative emotion, now, outside of your body, occupying some place in the room that you are in.
Step 5: Now, ask it why it is here. Write down what it needs you to know. Don’t dismiss any thought, for they are all important. Notice every sensation that you experience as you transcribe. Write those sensations down too.
Step 6: Take action on the feedback.
Does pain need you to stop an unhealthy emotional habit? Do you need to end a relationship or live more authentically? Do you need to learn to trust yourself more often? Do you need to be stop turning the other cheek when problems arise?
Once you cultivate the habit of finding the purpose in the pain, the way you look at and experience any negative emotion changes. It is no longer the enemy to elude. Rather, you come to see it as your best friend, your most valued mentor and your most prized possession.
Our feelings are our best allies. Regardless of how painful they feel at times, they serve a purpose. Painful emotions bring us back to ourselves, to our life lessons; the ones that serve to strengthen us, to help us grow and to widen and deepen the sanctuary within us all.