Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Discernment: Listening to our Pain

Ever wonder what your pain might be telling you, what its message is?  We live in a society that teaches us to medicate our pain, to do whatever possible to be pain free.  A sore muscle, a headache, a back pain—pop a bill.  A little discomfort, go shopping!  To relieve the day’s stress, numb out with a cigarette, a puff of marijuana, a few drinks, a bowl of ice cream, a bag of chips, a candy bar, a good movie. Fed up, go gambling, play video games, surf the internet until one feels better. 

Compulsive behavior is a way to freeze our pain, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. At some point in time the “anesthetic” does not work at the original dose; a higher dosage of the original “painkiller” or a more powerful “drug” is needed to numb the discomfort.   As long as we keep denying our hurt, our fears, our anger, our sadness, our discomfort, the more likely it is that we will get caught in an addictive cycle.  At some point, to become free of the addictive behavior, we need to pay attention to the message from which we were seeking an escape.

The pain may be a warning that we are “surfing” down a path that is not good for us, goes contrary to our values, is downright dangerous, or is detrimental to our growth.  Discomfort may be inviting us to die to selfishness, envy, jealousy, to our need to be in control of another’s life, to arrogance and pride; and, yes, even to choices that are leading into a sinful lifestyle.
Are we ready to confront the pain instead of running from it? The challenge will be difficult—freedom comes with a price.  Making changes that will lead to a fuller life will not be easy, by any means, but will certainly be rewarding in the long run.  Growing pains are far better than the pain of avoiding growth.  Which do we prefer?

It might be helpful to reflect on the following questions:
  • What are the pains that we are attempting to escape?  What messages might these pains be telling us?
  • How were we taught to cope with fear, sadness and anger? Parents, what are your teaching your children when they are afraid, sad, angry?
  • What helps us to confront pain without running from it?  What do we do to help ourselves face some of life’s more painful moments?   Parents: what do you do to help your children face life’s most painful moment? What are you teaching your children?
Source:  O’Brien, Margaret, OSU, Discovering Your Light: Common Journeys of Young Adults,  Resurrection Press, Mineola, NY, 1991, pp. 20-21.

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