Over the past several months the topic of pain has come up in conversations. I recently spoke at a mental wellness event where the topic boiled down to Holding on to Pain. I am becoming more aware everyday that pain has a few areas linked to the human condition (especially my human condition). First there is the physical pain we can see in others or feel in ourselves like a broken arm, cuts etc.… Secondly there is the emotional pain that is rarely seen or willingly shown. This pain can be felt by the bearer with so much force they would prefer the broken arm! This pain manifests differently for me and in different circumstances and with different attachments to my mind and body. Pain attached to fear usually has an anger reaction and I could at times add the attachment of shame. Pain attached to loss would require me to go deep within my head and I would feel sorry for myself, the “woe is me statement” as an example.

I am trying to think how I was taught to deal with emotional pain. What words did I hear? What actions did I see from all those around me when pain would enter their lives? When pain entered my life, how was I expected to deal with it? How did I expect myself to deal with it? What stories did I attach to it? Here is my short answer to those questions. I wasn’t taught, I thought I was weak and I would attach whatever story served my purpose. Sure there were glimpses of proper emotional care; I even got a few things right on my own. However there were no courses in school on dealing with emotional pain. I think that lack of emotional care especially around pain has created the phases of “suck it up”, “get over it”, “move on”, “stop your crying or I will give you something to cry about” or “you only lost (insert name or trauma here) I know someone who lost there entire family (insert name and trauma here), their fine what’s the matter with you?” If we are not taught we make shit up.

I hid my emotional pain with a smile for along time. As I make this journey, I realize it was likely most of my life. I was taught (I use the word taught word loosely) from a very young age that showing pain was not acceptable. If you identify with the male gender, think about being 7 or 8 and crying in the schoolyard in front of your friends, what do you think would have happened? Imagine a guy in high school being emotionally vulnerable? Go earlier in your life, was the saying “boys don’t cry” ever used towards you or around you?   If you did cry in your early years, what happened? Currently I am only associating pain to crying; please know that your pain can be whatever the emotional charge is for you! I am not sure I can identify the trials of growing up identifying in the female gender role, I do not pretend to think it is entirely the same but I can guarantee there are links. (Please, if you identify with the female gender and if you feel comfortable sharing that perspective in the comments, I would welcome them with an open heart. We need to be aware of both sides.)

I continue to wonder why I chose to hold onto or live in pain for so long. I keep coming up with more and more questions. What was I afraid of losing if I gave up my pain?   What beliefs did I hold around my pain? What stories have I told myself that would make this pain something that I could not work through? Why did I externalize my pain on others? Why does shame and fear have so much association with pain? Why did I choose to stay in situations that resulted in emotional pain? All the answers have not come to me as of yet, some have and some still require more thought.

I realize that pain is part of my life and I realize that pain is inevitable. I also realize that it no longer needs to stay with me like a dark blanket over my eyes and heart. I realize that I have been given the tools to work through the pain. I also realize if I am stumbling on a certain aspect of pain and I feel stuck, there is no shame in asking one of my teachers and guides to help. I also realize now there is no shame in saying these things; “I am hurting”, “I am struggling”, “I am sad”, or the best one of all “please help me”. I realize my association with asking for help came with the subconscious thoughts being a victim, being weak or being a burden (Thank you Christine for putting it in these words). No longer does asking for help mean any of those things; it means I am strong, I am determined, I am worthy of help and I am worthy of love.

Keep Chasing those Cars!

With Love, Respect and Admiration

Steve

8 Comments on “Holding on to the Pain

  1. From my little girl perspective:
    “Good girls don’t ….”
    “Be nice like a good girl”
    “The boys won’t like you if you are too smart or good at sports (especially “boy” sports)
    So sadly I listened and became a very “nice” girl without a voice, who downplayed her accomplishments and was afraid to be athletic or try “boy” sports.
    Over the last couple years I have been consciously making shifts on those areas and cheering on my daughters as they challenge those words that froze me. Wrestling and rugby are definitely for girls! Girls can be very smart! I am still learning to grow my voice and am pleased that it is becoming the voice I really want to hear rather than the one “nice/good” girls would use. I hope to encourage my daughters to use their voices – they have much to share and I learn tons. I want to encourage all the boys and girls in my world (regardless of age) to honor themselves and explore to understand how “messages” impact us. I am celebrating the loving messages and growing (sometimes painfully) through the others.

    Thank you for being part of my journey Steve. 💖

  2. Hi Steve; It is so wonderful that you made the decision to share your journey to wellness with all those who share this journey with you. I for one look each week for the next blog and I have saved them all in hard copy. Mike has also read each and every one. We both send you hugs, Love Mom and Mike

  3. Steve,

    Thanks for sharing your journey with anyone willing and wanting to take the time to read. Your blogs have made me take time and reflect on things.
    Keep them coming and always know you have a friend that cares and is/will be here for you.
    Jackie:)

  4. Great blog bro I really enjoy reading them

  5. I heard “she broke her arm and didn’t cry”. “She’s a tough kid.” I didn’t hear that I should or shouldn’t cry. Physical pain was pain and I didn’t feel that it need tears to make it better. Emotional pain was met with comfort. I’m glad for that now.

    Reading about your journey is like watching someone, who is definitely down in a fight, get up and KO their opponent. You’re definitely on your way up. 😃

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