Pain and discomfort are a part of being human.
And, whether it’s fear, anger, regret, sorrow, guilt, hopelessness, embarrassment, or some other painful or uncomfortable feeling, that pain is as real as anything you’ve ever experienced. I know because I’ve felt the same way.
The problem is, most of us were never trained to deal with these feelings properly. So, as we grow up, we develop all kinds of unhealthy methods for managing painful emotions and uncomfortable circumstances, many of which give us a temporary break from the pain at the expense of of our health, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex or some other form of toxic distraction.
Dealing with pain and discomfort is very much an art, an intangible dance. It’s difficult to learn. However, not only can anyone learn it, I’d argue that it’s as important as anything else you’ll ever learn throughout your entire life.
Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.
– Kevyn Aucoin
Emotions are inextricably linked to every life experience, and our well-being as a whole. If you ever hope to be happy, successful, and healthy, you need to learn how to manage the difficult emotions and feelings that you’ll experience along the way.
Don’t run from your feelings
We have a habit of running from pain. It’s no surprise, why would you want to feel pain if you can get away from it? If you were to touch a hot stove, what would you do? Pull your hand away as quickly as you could, right? It doesn’t work quite the same with emotions.
Instead, imagine you have an open wound on your hand and you have to pour peroxide over the wound to help it close. It’s going to hurt like hell, but if you ignore it and try to act like it’s not there, you’re only going to make it worse. That open wound could get infected and it won’t ever heal unless you close the wound.
Emotions work similarly. You have to have the courage to face the pain and discomfort if you ever hope to cure it or, at the very least, manage it. The nice thing is, in the same way that a wound will heal on its own provided it received the right attention, emotional scars will heal on their own with time as well.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean all forms of emotional pain will go away forever. Some will stay with you and you must learn to manage them. However, no matter what it is you’re going through, with time and the right kind of loving attention given, it will heal enough to where you can move on (if not become fully cured).
Become your own best friend
That right kind of attention is what I call being your own best friend. Being your own best friend is the opposite of the behavior we typically adopt in the face of pain:
- Instead of avoiding pain, you face it
- Instead of criticizing yourself, you’re kind to yourself
- Instead of feeling shame, you remind yourself that you are human and all or many human beings go through these same things
Instead of running away or crashing into it head-on, it’s about meeting your pain but doing so in a way to where you dance with it, cradling it almost as a mother would her child.
We don’t exist independently of our emotions, so whatever you’re going through is you. For that reason, it’s important to remember that whatever you do with that emotion you’re also doing with — and to — yourself. That’s why you need to learn how to comfort and love yourself.
For the most part, that means being kind to yourself. Instead of ignoring, bottling down, or inciting the pain, give yourself words of encouragement and confidence, take time away to be with yourself (or be around others who love you if that works best for you), and be understanding.
Know that it takes time to heal. Don’t try to rush yourself through the process, let it unfold naturally and be there for yourself throughout it. Simply being with what’s going on within you has a very therapeutic quality to it, so lean into the process and let your natural healing ability do its thing.
Find happiness through life’s experiences– good and bad
Once you understand that these painful and uncomfortable feelings are just a part of life, and that if you learn the art of dancing with them instead of trying to run from them you can even find joy in the process, you can allow yourself to live the full spectrum of human experience and enjoy it.
So, find happiness not by searching out positivity or bliss, but by leaning into all of life’s many incredible experiences.