The Gold in Pain

The Gold in Pain

None of us like pain. We naturally resist physical, emotional, or mental distress. Our instinct is to want things to be different, so we avoid acceptance of what’s here. This is natural, and we all do it, but it’s also counterproductive to what we want to achieve. This post explains why and how to safely turn toward your pain, begin to heal it, let it go and accept things as they are.

I’ll also explain how the gold in pain reveals the subconscious drivers that limit our confidence and the development of a healthier relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

Here’s an example

Have you ever been happily going about your day, and then, BAM! A giant problem spawns out of nowhere? Recently, this was my experience when presented with a problem that needed urgent attention. I had no idea how to fix it.

From the outset, I felt helplessness and inadequacy rise through my whole body. Within moments my heart was racing, and my breath was shallow. Anxiety rushed through my veins, and chaos bombarded my thoughts.

One moment I was happily enjoying a productive morning, and the next, l was helpless and inadequate – or so I thought.

I had two options:

  1. The Avoidance Reaction.

Running away meant I wouldn’t have to confront the people who wanted me to solve the problem. Nor did I need to meet the cool glances and short answers. Yes, it wasn’t very pleasant.

  1. The Attending Response.

Acknowledge that I had no idea what to do, and call someone who did and ask for their help.

Choosing the Attending Response, I called my colleague. They walked me through the steps, and we resolved the problem together.

Interestingly, while carrying out the Attending Response, I still felt the sting of inadequacy, even though I was tending to the solution step by step and solving the problem.

As the day passed, ruminating thoughts over what happened lingered in their repetitive nature. At the same time, I told myself to ‘let it go’, ‘forget about it’. I also tried more self talk such as ‘it’s over now’ and ‘just get on with it’, But the heaviness hung like a pressure cloud ready to burst.

The poem by Rumi, The Guest House, invites us to put out the welcome mat for all experiences, the joyful and the painful. Because it’s only when we turn toward the unpleasant that we can come to know what is holding us back, awareness is the key to the gold.

Cue the Reflective Practice

While trying to ‘get on with it’ and failing miserably, I turned to reflective practice and effectively the unpleasant, i.e. my fear, helplessness, and inadequacy.

Then, I took a moment, paused and invited self-compassion into the room.

You see, self-compassion understands why fear and unpleasant emotions are here and why they scream so loud, hijacking peace and drowning out strength. Ironically, fear rises because it’s trying to keep us safe – but it doesn’t know how or when to stop.

That’s why we have a rational mind: to engage our executive function and self-compassion to turn toward distress with acceptance and understanding.

Here’s the Gold in Pain

Reflecting and turning toward my unpleasant emotions caused flashbacks of great falls and repercussions from the past to play like an action movie in my mind. Consequences of times when I thought I had it right but didn’t. When I realised that I needed to know more during the most inappropriate timing—the humiliation, inadequacy, and embarrassment.

All these memories created a home in my subconscious. Then they wrote a guidebook with the following instructions:

The next time you experience confrontation, this is how you feel: helpless and inadequate.

And that is precisely what happened when the urgent problem spawned into my morning. Although my habitual reactions were in play, I could only identify my patterns by turning toward the pain with self-compassion and rationale.

Here’s the really interesting part:

My thoughts and emotions were real, but they were not true. I was not helpless or inadequate. Instead, I called my colleague, found the solution, and fixed the problem. But the unpleasant sensations, thoughts and emotions lingered until I turned toward them with compassion.

It gets better.

Compassion and rationale also allowed me the space to recognise my strengths and what went well, which is equally important but often soon forgotten.

The instinct to turn away and resist pain is within us all and is the default mode for us humans.  Our default mode will never lean into our strengths to reflect on what went well and thank us for a great job. Therefore, we need to do this deliberately and on purpose. When we do this often, we can come to know ourselves in a new way that supports equanimity and self-compassion.

Finally, the invitation is to hold this practice in your awareness and allow it to support you when your pain hijacks your strength and peace of mind.

Work with Me

If you would like to work with me as your Coach, get in touch, and we can arrange a free 15-minute initial consultation call.

Your coaching program is tailored to you and what you need to heal, grow and develop your best self, increase equanimity and self-compassion.

What’s more, there is the option for online or in-person appointments, so no matter where you are in the world, together, I can support you in moving forward.


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