Our bodies were made to feel pain for a specific reason – to let us know when we should STOP doing the thing that’s inducing the pain! Seems simple enough, right?
Many times in my life, I’ve stood with my hand on the stove. The element is lit, and the small blue flames spit and dance. As my hand rests above the fire, the flames jump up and wrap around my fingers.
The pain is excruciating! And yet, I continue to stand there, with my hand resting on the element. I writhe in agony.
As people pass by, I call out my pain – “It hurts so much! And I don’t know what to do?? Please help me!” Some walk right past, not knowing what to say. My friends try to stop and give advice. “Just take your hand off” they say, as if it’s no big deal. But I can’t understand what they’re saying! Others tell me how stupid I’m being – that I should know how to take my hand off the element, that I’m just being silly!
I cry in pain and frustration, because now not only does it hurt, but now I’m questioning myself – am I really that stupid? They’re right – I should know what to do! What’s the matter with me?
So I learn to hold all that pain inside, not wanting to call out anymore because others will see how stupid I am. Yet I can’t figure out how to make the pain stop!
The pain becomes all consuming. Although the small flames only lick around my fingers, I am so obsessed by this pain that I can think of nothing else and it feels like my whole body is engulfed in flame. The pain is overwhelming!
Every once in a while, I momentarily taken my hand off the element, perhaps to scratch my nose. And in that moment, I notice and am grateful for the relief from the pain.
Inevitably, though, I put my hand back on the stove as I lean back again, falling into my familiar position – just because that’s how I’ve always stood. And the pain comes back…
This morning, a dear friend listened to me talk about my pain and confusion and then gently said “You’re not stupid – don’t you see that your hand is on the stove and the element is lit? Of course it hurts! It’s only natural that it hurts when the flames touch your skin! Come take your hand off the stove now.”
Suddenly I remember how it stopped hurting before when I scratched my nose. I remember the feeling of relief when I removed my hand from the stove for that moment. And the light finally goes on – THIS is what the pain was trying to teach me!
I lift my hand from the stove and it is as if a weight has been lifted. Not only has the pain stopped, but I finally realize that the solution was within me all along! I wasn’t really at the mercy of all those around me who couldn’t seem to help!
First I experienced the pain.
Then I noticed the relief when I removed my hand but didn’t realize why the pain stopped.
When my friend gently pointed out what to her was obvious, I finally recognized what had been the cause of my pain all along.
And finally, I realized that I could create my own salvation.
Experience. Recognize. Create.
It’s pretty easy when we’re talking about physical pain, isn’t it? It seems ridiculously easy to figure out the problem! When something hurts, we can most often figure out what’s causing the pain and make changes that remedy the situation. When you step on a piece of glass, it hurts. You take the glass out and it stops hurting. When you put your hand in fire, it hurts. You take your hand out of the fire and it stops hurting (well, not right away, but you know what I’m getting at…)
But it’s not so easy with emotional pain. It’s not nearly as obvious to see what the cause is, and even harder to stop or change. How often do we struggle with our pain, not knowing why? We’re lonely, our hearts hurt, we feel alone, we feel stupid for not knowing how to make it better.
It’s easy to experience the pain – that part seems to take care of itself quite well, thank you very much!
The trick is how to recognize what’s really causing the pain – and to recognize our own part in creating the pain. Perhaps by our hidden beliefs. Maybe from our old, ingrained habits, since it’s the way it’s always been done. From our assumptions, expectations, reactions and fear. Or maybe we need help recognizing the way out of our pain?
Because we all really want to get to the point of being able to create the lives we want!