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October 1, 2012

Pain.  We all feel it.  Admittedly, some of us feel it more that others, but each of us, at some point(s) in our lives feel pain.  Deep, undeniable, debilitating pain.  I, as many of you know, am one of those people who feels this pain very strongly.  Situations that other people can just shrug off, or be hurt by but move quickly past, tend to tear me limb from limb.  I can’t explain it – it’s just who I am.  I’ve tried to live in a way where I’m not as severely impacted by negativity, but the bad feelings inevitably creep up on me.  There’s nothing I can do about it… I’m a “feeler.”

So, I’ve been wondering lately – where does this pain come from?  And, why is it here?  And really, how can I get rid of it?    Now, I don’t claim to be any wiser about this stuff than anyone else, and I certainly can’t give anyone any advice about the topic, but, well, I have some thoughts, if you’d like to hear them.

First – where does this pain come from? (Or, for my grammatically inclined friends, from whence does this pain come?).  I think that pain stems from the ego.  Not the “I”m better than you, na na na na na na” type of ego, but the part of ourselves that makes us uniquely us.  That part that says “I’m special.  I’m pretty great.  Feed me, clothe me, love me.”  The part of ourselves that pushes us to succeed and thrive in this world, because, well, we deserve to succeed and thrive.  Pain, or SOME kinds of pain I should say, comes when something or someone causes our ego to say “I guess I’m not so special after all.”  Whether it’s rejection or loss or any kind of disappointment, some small part of us takes it personally, and says “this happened/didn’t happen because I’M NOT WORTHY.”   And that, my friends, hurts.  Strangely enough, it isn’t even always the person/situation/success that we cared the most about that hurts us – it is the state that our ego is in when the “bad thing” happens.  Our egos want so badly to be validated, to be told that yes, indeed we are special and worthy, that even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant person or event can send us into a spiral of pain.  Our brains may KNOW that we shouldn’t be so hurt, but our egos feel trampled upon, and for some of us (big blinking arrow pointing right over here!) the ego wins out.  Ouch.

So why then?  Why does the ego win out?  Why do we have to feel pain?  The easy answer is because we’re human, and it’s part of the human condition to feel highs and lows, joy and pain.  Yeah yeah yeah.  So what?  That’s a cop-out answer if I’ve ever heard one!  We hurt because we love.  We love other people, and we love ourselves.  When something conflicts with that love, BOOM! our egos get smashed.  It’s true that if we all loved ourselves enough our egos wouldn’t be quite as fragile, and yet so many of us can’t quite get there… we can’t quite figure out how to love ourselves enough.  The love that we do have for ourselves though is sacred, if underdeveloped, and so when someone or something gives us reason to question that love, the pain comes fast and furious.  As I tell my B’nai Mitzvah students, “It’s good that you’re nervous – if you weren’t nervous it would mean that you didn’t care.”  The same holds true for pain – we feel pain because we love.  If we didn’t feel pain, it would mean that there was no love to tear away.  We also love ourselves just enough to try to nourish those hopes and dreams that the ego promotes.  Love, by it’s very nature, whether it’s for ourselves or for another brings with it hope and expectations.  Love opens us up to the possibilities that abound around us, and so when that love is diminished, even a tiny bit, those possibilities seem so much less likely.  This is why the ego then feels that unworthiness.  Love of anything opens us up, and without love we wouldn’t be able to pursue our dreams.  We also wouldn’t feel the pain of disappointment and loss.  The more we love, the more we are vulnerable to hurt.

What then, can be done?  Sure, I’d love to feel less pain, feel less wounded when my ego gets punched, but if the absence of pain means the absence of love, then count me out!  I don’t want to stop loving, and so I have to acknowledge and accept that pain is possible, and in fact, likely.  There must though, be a way to soothe the pain, move through it, and let the healing begin more quickly. Back to the ego.  Our brains, our hearts, our bodies and our souls all develop and mature.  Our egos?  Not so much.  They are like small children who just want to be nurtured, and whose bottom lip will start to quiver at even the mere thought of not getting what they want.  This. Is. A. Good. Thing.  Without that small child crying “hey!!! what about me?!?!” we’d never do/think/pursue/create those things that are so good for us.  We’d never push ourselves towards greatness or try to accomplish our goals.  We need that child to remind us that we are important!!  So when our egos are wounded, maybe all that they need is what we would give to a child – love, care, understanding, and a shove in the right direction.  When my ego is hurting, I so often do things that hurt it further.  I either ignore it and say “you shouldn’t be feeling like this, get over it” or I let it convince me that what it’s hurting about is actually true.  You’d NEVER do that to a child, would you?  Would you tell a 4-year-old who dropped her ice cream cone to just “get over it”?  Or would you sit down with a first grader and say “you’re right honey.  No one likes you and you’re the stupidest, ugliest kid in the class”??? NO NO NO!  Of course you wouldn’t!  So let’s not do that to our egos, either.  They can’t just “get over it”, nor is what they’re feeling the absolute truth.  All we can do is comfort them, listen to them, support, understand and validate them, and then use our wise, mature minds to show them what the real truth is.  It’s ok to hurt.  We’re SUPPOSED to hurt –  that hurt is a signal.  It tells us that it’s time to be compassionate, to nurture the small child, and to take the time to figure out what the real truth is, and move forward.

I don’t like to feel pain.  I don’t think that I ever will.  Yet, I know that I will likely feel deep, soul-crushing pain for the rest of my life.  It’s who I am.  Maybe I”m too sensitive, or maybe I don’t love myself enough.  Or maybe I’m just not willing to close off my ability to love in order to close off my susceptibility to pain.  I don’t know.  What I do know though is that feeling pain is a doorway – a path towards learning to be more compassionate, more accepting of all aspects of myself.  It is a catalyst to self-discovery and learning what my absolute truths are.  What’s that saying?  It’s always darkest before the dawn?  I feel that way about pain – it always hurts the most right before you find a new breakthrough, a new way to be your wonderful, sparkling self.

Wishing you light and love


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