One sure thing about pain is that it automatically causes you to resist it. It's something you push against, you don’t want, you want to end.
This is a natural reaction, of course. Pain is unpleasant, even unbearable at times. It can feel all-encompassing, as if it were swallowing your well-being up inside itself.
I understand that completely.
On the other hand, what happens when you push against something? The wise adage, “what you resist, persists” seems to be true.
What You Resist Persists
This doesn’t seem to be the case, however.
You don’t like pain. Believe me, I know. You don’t have to like it. But it’s here. The situation is here. The illness, the injury, has already happened. It isn’t where you want to be. It isn’t what you want to feel. Understood.
But pushing against it doesn’t work. Trying to fight against your body or the pain or the situation does not help. It actually hinders the healing process.
Pushing against pain includes labeling it as inherently bad, evil, unworkable, a punishment, a terrible burden you have to carry, or your penance for not being perfect.
You get the picture. Anything that feels like martyrdom, self-pity, recrimination, blame, accusation or criticism is pushing-against, is resistance.
The Middle Road Through Pain
But that’s not so. The antidote to resisting pain isn’t running around trying to welcome more pain into your life. There is a middle road between the two poles to just about anything.
The middle road in this case looks something like this: You are not denying that you are in pain, but you are not pretending everything is a bed of roses either. You are in the middle ground that looks at everything with a clear eye, takes stock, makes some sensible and reasonable choices for that day, and doesn’t insist that you’ve failed if you haven’t healed by a certain time frame.
The middle road understands that the path through pain takes the time it takes. Hating pain, thrashing around inside your head about what a stupid mistake this all is or asking over and over, why me? is generally fruitless.
Spend some time doing that if you need to, of course, just to get it out in the open. Then gently notice how much closer you are to healing.
Then just let it go. Let it go.
This Is No Party
Pain is present in your body for a reason. Instead of trying to get rid of something that is currently an unpleasant part of your experience, I've found that it works better to acknowledge it, to allow the fact that pain is part of your reality, and then to work to transform and transmute the experience (while not simultaneously pushing against it.)
You may say, oh, I've done that, I know pain is here, I'm allowing it all right. But I'm not talking about a kind of resentful resignation that might be mistaken for non-resistance. I'm talking about a positive stance toward pain and toward the possibilities for healing that goes beyond just putting up with it, and includes dropping any kind of pushing-against.
This is sort of like the difference between showing up at a party you really don't want to attend and being all grumpy and grumbly and grouchy, versus actually deciding to participate positively.
But this isn't a party, you say. Yes, I know. It's much harder to do this. But it's also much more important, because this isn't a party.
It's your life.
Being Softer With The Self
Medication can be used to resist pain, to destroy it, and sometimes as a way not to have to feel anything at all. Pain relievers can also be used judiciously to help the nerves calm down and the body to get some rest so you can focus on healing.
In our goals-oriented, task-oriented culture, we often feel we have to make things happen. But pain doesn’t seem to respond well to muscling our way toward healing. It just doesn’t.
It seems to require less resistance, less pushing-against, and much more softness toward the self.
and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain (Any Road Press, 2016)