When we avoid pain (here defined as any emotion that results in physical discomfort), we do so in a number of ways:
1. We say no to it. We push the feeling away and refuse to allow it because we don't like the discomfort it produces.
2. We hold another person responsible for it.
3. We attack the perceived offender emotionally and/or physically in response to how we feel, believing that punishing her/him for our pain will mollify it somehow.
The indulgence of these conditioned impulses lends the illusion of escape to the conscious mind. As the challenging moments of life arise, the fear mechanism kicks in and pain's position in our consciousness is usurped by blame and attack. Denial does its work, and the pain is rerouted back toward the caverns of the heart. The conscious mind, distracted by attack and judgement, and limited by nature, believes the pain to be conquered.
However, the heart is not allowed the same illusion of escape. It is forced to hold the pain, to contain it within us. The pain festers, grows fetid and sour, becomes mutated by distorted memory. It feeds on the stories we have told about its cause, stories held in the subconscious mind, stories that revolve around unworthiness, blame, fear, hatred, rage, self-loathing, guilt, and shame: "S/he did that, and now I feel like this," or, "I did this, and now s/he feels like that," or, "I did that, and now I feel like this". These recycled stories leak into our consciousness and develop into belief systems about who we are. We carry shadowy ideas of our own innate badness, all the while holding the other responsible for what we ourselves accept as truth. After all, if we didn't believe something to be true, we wouldn't become so agitated by the behaviors and actions of another.
And so, throughout our lives, the mistakes, successes, and losses of others often touch upon our personal belief systems, originally erected from unhealed pain. Whatever we hold against ourselves is unearthed by the circumstances we face. In other words, every moment is a potential reminder of what remains to be healed. The heart, sensing this potential whenever it arises, awakens our pain to the opportunity at hand, and our pain becomes active. Anger, irritation, sadness, rage, grief, jealousy...all of these responses come from the collected pain that lives at our core, in the wound, begging to be seen, heard, and felt.
Unfortunately, most of us don't have compassion for our pain, and we don't listen to its call. We reject it, thereby continuing the cycle of avoidance and denial. We create a bottleneck with every denied feeling, never allowing each individual pent up emotion to see the light of day, thus placing enormous pressure on the heart as it struggles to maintain the huge amount of pain we ask it to hold. As it stands now, our pain languishes in this way indefinitely, neglected and disallowed. Sometimes, it comes to a head as our lives spin out of control. Always, it slowly destroys us as we keep our heads buried in the sand, holding ourselves and each other hostage to the delusional belief that pain is the enemy.
We can transform this tendency. Reason is the key.
When our pain surges in response to an event or person, reason has the power to step in and intercede on our behalf. It halts the movement toward attack, judgement, blame, denial and fear, and it works with the heart and the mind to soften our relationship to our pain. It helps us to overcome our fear of discomfort, and teaches us to love ourselves fully and completely, in every moment. With regular application, reason reminds us to embrace all of our parts, even those that hurt, and to recognize pain as a gift of healing and enlightenment, rather than a curse to be extinguished. It shows us that our pain is not to be avoided, but rather to be embraced as an intimate friend. In turn, we find peace in surrendering to whatever comes, even if we don't enjoy the outcome very much.
How is reason accessed, though, when pain can be so overwhelmingly persistent, and our conditioning so difficult to resist? When another behaves in a way which awakens our pain to an intense degree, how can we possibly activate reason?
Through immediate conscious breathing: expanding the abdomen on the inhale, releasing on the exhale. Breath clears away the pressure built by the bottleneck of denied pain. It opens the passages of the heart. It disengages the animal impulse to charge. It gives us the strength to ask for help from our personal God when all we want to do is punish and attack. It gives us the power to say, "Help me," and help arrives from the ether like a soothing balm, making room for reason.
In the search for succor, reason turns us inward rather than outward. It turns us toward the self, and away from judgement and fear. Reason reunites us with the suffering, child-like heart that begs for love and acceptance. It gives us the courage to allow our pain to fully express itself in our hearts, without blame or self-recrimination, no matter what the old stories tell us. With this newfound courage, and with silence, patience, and breath, the pain blossoms carefully in the body, and then, at its zenith, it is transmuted into hope and absorbed by the energetic field, making us wiser, truer, more loving versions of ourselves.
Reason gives us the strength to heal our pain. It shows us how to ask for help when circumstances are too much for us to bear. It shows us the way to forgiveness. It shows us the way to peace.