Pain as a teacher

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

Painful emotion is a teacher that bears the gift of self-knowledge – Paul Shapiro, M.D.

We all experience pain at some time in our lives and it may be physical or emotional pain. Sometimes, pain is transient, such as the pain of an immunization or a dental procedure. However, many suffer from chronic pain that never goes away. Sadly, some physical conditions have no cure. It is something some people just have to live with.

Emotional pain can be considered chronic as well. A child with abusive parents may suffer for 18 years before getting out, but the pain from those experiences can last a lifetime. Some children are bullied and that can go on for years. Loss of a loved one can leave a painful sense of loss that never really goes away.

Emotional pain can be overcome depending on the type and severity. It feels so good when we no longer have the pain. The way we view our pain affects its intensity. If we are angry and bitter because we have chronic physical pain, that will make us feel even worse. If we hold resentment and vindictiveness over emotional pain others have caused, it is like scratching a wound, preventing it from ever fully healing.

With physical pain, it helps if we show ourselves compassion and love. This is better than hating the pain. We can embrace it rather than rejecting it. If a child skins a knee, we don’t just kiss the knee. We embrace the whole child. Similarly, we can embrace our entirety, pain and all, and surround it with self-love.

We need to acknowledge the pain and send healing energy to the parts that hurt. Having done that, we can then put our focus elsewhere. Interestingly, often when I do hypnosis with a client who has a bad migraine, or a painful part on their body, when they come out of the trance they say the pain is gone. Pain relief was not the focus of the hypnosis. However, as the body relaxes and the mind becomes quiet, the pain dissipates.

You know the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Similarly, we may wonder if we remove our focus from the pain, will we still experience it? This applies equally to emotional pain.

The other important point is that pain can be a powerful teacher. In my 20s, when I entered the work world, I found that the people who had the most depth and wisdom seemed to be the ones who had experienced suffering.

Challenging our pain can be like climbing Mount Everest. Like moving up the mountain, we can move forward in a positive direction and grow in ways we never could without our painful experiences.

Pain can be a catalyst to help us develop compassion, perspective and wisdom. It can make us stronger. Pain should not define us. We are so much more than our pain. Pain definitely has side effects in our lives and affects our view of ourselves. However, unless we move on from these, we will remain stuck as victims of what we have endured. And we will carry that pain wherever we go.

The process of moving on from the pain reveals a deep inner strength and that strength will make all the difference throughout the rest of our lives.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.

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