It is quite normal for us to move away from pain when it shows up in our lives. Whether it is emotional or physical, imaginary or real, our own or another's, pain is something we learned to move away from a long time ago. Much of that has do to with basic survival; if it hurts our instincts tell us to get away from it at all costs right?
It makes perfect sense to get away from painful things when we are talking about physical pain being caused by some kind of outside stimulus such as fire or being physically assaulted or some such event. Today I'd like to talk about emotional and physical pain that shows up without the outside stimulus. This kind of pain requires a very different response yet for the most part we treat it the same way, we tend to do anything we can to get rid of it without another thought.
I'd like to offer another perspective. What if the emotional and physical pain that arises within are not the enemy but rather messengers handing us calling cards inviting us to look at something that needs our attention? What if it is a way for inner being to communicate about something that is being resisted or misinterpreted or simply not in alignment with who we really are?
When I think of all the emotional pain I have experienced in my life there is not one instance where it did not have something to do with some expectation or desire that was not being met or some event that I was interpreting through unresolved memories. I spent what seems like lifetimes trying to manipulate my world and the people in it to get what I needed, even though I didn't know what that even was most of the time, or conversely giving up in frustration and disappointment. I've done plenty of bouncing back and forth between those two extremes until I finally realized the pain was not my enemy, it was the out picturing of my own distorted thoughts and my ineffective coping mechanisms.
In relationship emotional (which eventually turns into physical) pain is an opportunity to connect when we realize it has an important message for us. We can learn to pay attention to the thoughts associated with the pain and see them for what they really are, projections and assumptions and expressions of unmet needs. If I have a need to feel safe or wanted or appreciated doesn't it make more sense to turn around and bring reassurance to that innocent being within who feels the need rather than being angry at my partner for not meeting it? Believe it or not that isn't even their job! The problem is that we usually don't even realize what we really need because we simply react to the pain and don't take the time to be still and look at what's really going on.
Our partners in life are not here to meet our every need if we are to grow beyond our wounded child self concept. They can walk with us and bring up our unresolved pain but the truth is they didn't cause it and they aren't the ones who have to do something about it, we are. We can compassionately receive the pain, become aware of what's really going on and give ourselves the kind of attention we have been longing for. When we share this process with our partners, not demanding anything of them but rather including them and allowing them to be present with us in our vulnerability then we open the door to whole new levels of connection and authenticity.
It truly is a wondrous and beautiful experience to embrace our pain and our partners with love rather than expectation. It generally takes a lot of practice and there are plenty of false starts but the rewards a more than worth it if we really want to share our lives with another or simply live authentically and joyfully.