"Sometimes your pain doesn't make your life unbearable; your life makes your pain unbearable." -- David Bresler, Ph.D.
The word pain is derived from the Latin word poena, which means "punishment". Whether pain should be thought of as a punishment is debatable, but we know that it certainly hurts to have it, and it usually feels like a punishment, whether the person has done something to deserve it or not. In ancient times, people thought that pain was caused by demons who had possessed them. And if you didn't pay your exorcist to get rid of the demons, you got repossessed!
Pain is nature's way of making you take notice. It is a warning -- sometimes a loud warning -- that something is wrong. It is a symptom and a signal, and it demands your attention!
Headaches, backaches, arthritis, and menstrual cramps are the most frequent pain syndromes. Most people today treat their pain with one or more of the various anti-inflammatory medicines, a.k.a. painkillers.
However, because pain itself is only a symptom, painkillers may reduce the discomfort but do nothing to heal the source of pain. In fact, suppressing the symptoms of pain can drive the pain and the disease deeper into the person. The body eventually adapts to the painkillers, and soon needs stronger and stronger doses in order to achieve a similar degree of relief. The body also becomes addicted to these drugs, ultimately causing new types of discomfort and dysfunction for which a person all too often takes additional drugs to treat. A pain cycle has been created, and it is sometimes difficult to break.
Denying pain is equally ineffective. Some people ignore their pain. They assume that nothing is wrong, that there is nothing that they should change about themselves, and that the pain they are having is only a temporary glitch that will soon disappear.
Famed psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, "If you don't come to terms with your shadow, it will appear in your life as your fate." Until a person sheds light on the shadow of pain, its fateful return will be a continual reminder of something amiss.
It has been said, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." It runs deep and wide, and you cannot wash away your pain by denial. Unless and until awareness replaces denial, the pain will demand attention one way or another.
The challenge of pain is to seek to comprehend what it is saying. What is not in balance in your life? Is there something that you need to change within yourself, or is there something outside you that either needs to be avoided or changed? Does the specific location and kind of pain have any special meaning to you? And why did the pain start now?
Seeking to understand pain can itself be therapeutic. It can turn a difficult situation into a learning and growing experience. It is, of course, difficult to understand one's pain, but it is a real problem when people do not even try. Perhaps this is why Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, once said, "Years ago I used to commiserate with all people who suffered. Now I commiserate only with those who suffer in ignorance, who do not understand the purpose and ultimate utility of pain."
Whatever the source or meaning of pain, it represents a certain wisdom of the body and mind to defend itself and to adapt to stress or infection. Whatever the nature of the pain, it is decidedly more effective to appreciate it rather than resist it. Resistance creates additional tension and usually additional pain. Loving attention, on the other hand, can have a noticeably soothing and healing effect.
Loving one's pain is certainly easier to say than do. It seems a lot simpler to feel irritated and angry about the pain, depressed and despairing about how horrible it is, and fearful and anxious about how long it will persist. But just as easily as a person in pain can assume that life is a series of problems, this person can also be intrigued by the challenge of life as a series of adventures. Instead of fretting about the pain, the person can be curiously seeking out ways to deal with it.
There is also something wonderfully healing about simply giving "positive vibrations" to pain. Although this may sound hokey, a person in pain is usually willing to do some odd things in an effort to obtain relief. Since resisting or fighting pain is like pulling at a knot from both ends, learning to love the knot sometimes loosens its grip.
As heroes in many a fairy tale have reflected, "You don't have to hate the dragon to love the princess." Likewise, you don't have to hate the pain to love the challenge it creates. This may be an important first step in learning to deal with pain most effectively.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher,
Hay House Inc. ©1999. www.hayhouse.com
The primary premise of this book is: If you take your disease lying down, you are apt to stay that way. This book consists of 22 steps to health, each of which are short, humorous essays that illuminate an underlying principle of the healing process
DANA ULLMAN M.P.H. has been certified in classical homeopathy by the leading organization in the U.S. for professional homeopaths. He is the founder of Homeopathic Educational Services which has co-published over 35 books on homeopathy with North Atlantic Books. Dana writes a regular column for the huffingtonpost.com website. His numerous books are available for purchase on Amazon by clicking here.