I’d like to humbly encourage you, in the form of discouragement: Don’t let anyone try to talk you out of your pain.
Own it. Get to know it. Intimately. It is exclusively and personally yours. It is one thing you can have all to yourself.
Many people don’t want to hear about it. Many people want to fix it so that they don’t have to watch you bear it. That might cause them to pay attention to their own pain.
Other kinds of people want always to pay attention to the pain of others at the expense of their own. Perhaps you are like that also. Either way, your pain wants to be known and owned. It does not like loneliness.
We all know with certainty, when we are honest with ourselves, but we cannot run away from our pain. No matter how long we keep running, it is still there.
We should also know that “stronger” doesn’t mean more impervious to pain. When we want stronger muscles, we might lift weights so that we can carry heavier burdens. What muscles carry pain? Your heart is a pretty impressive muscle. Exercise it.
If your heart has been bruised or broken or wounded, you may think it is too weak to carry your pain. That’s “thinking.” That’s a different “muscle” than your heart.
We can borrow thoughts, and pretend they are our own. When it comes to the heart, though, we cannot borrow or pretend. We can harden it, in the hopes that it will suffer no more pain. But that barrier also keeps the pain inside. And we know hardened arteries are not healthy. Neither is a hardened heart. It is not stronger; it is more brittle.
The only one who can know your pain intimately is you. And, oh my, do we not know with certainty that our pain aches to be known? Give your pain your love. Give your pain your compassion. Have a self-pity party.
We permit self-pity to shame us because we are acculturated to avoid pain. Pity is a very strong and clear signal that you have avoided your pain for too long. Maybe the people closest to you did not want to be intimate with your pain. And when you are close to them, you yourself are discouraged from being intimate with your pain.
Blaming others for your pain is a tricky game which no one has ever won (https://feelwithneil.com/2020/11/24/shitty-blame-boardgame/). But it is an irresistible temptation when we perceive ourselves as too weak to carry our own pain. Blame all you wish, but no one else will carry your pain for you.
So perhaps now you are alone with your pain. Consider that that is what your pain wants. Your full attention. Be intimate with it. Come to love it. That is what it wants. Lift it up in your tender arms and console it. Then, notice yourself, lifting it and holding it.
You are NOT too weak to carry your pain. You ARE carrying it, always have been, and always will be. I would discourage you from trying to forget that. It is yours. All yours. And it wants to be yours and yours alone. Self-love and self compassion begin here.
The following exercise struck me as ridiculous and corny also. But, I didn’t have to do it many times to feel its deep and lasting impact. And it helps me to revisit it periodically also.
And quiet solitude, sit across from a couch pillow as your pain. Study its physical details. Then have a chat, and speak to it, speak for it, and inten to both of you.
What are you? “I am your pain.”
How big are you?
Where do you live, physically and literally, inside my body? Give me a moment to locate you and feel you.
Where do you want to go? “Nowhere. Nowhere different than, or apart from, you.”
What do you want?
“To be noticed. To be loved. Not to be ignored. To be picked up, right now, and held in your arms against your heart.”
Neil D. 2021-10-02