The Fear of Pain

I was talking to some people recently about the idea that allowing all forms of pain is a necessary component of human ascension. Not surprisingly, someone said in response, “I’ve had enough pain. I want to get away from it, not go toward it.” My response back was obvious. I said: “You can’t.” I didn't say, "Facing the pain helps you get rid of it." Why? Because wanting to "get rid" of pain only increases suffering. Welcoming pain tempers suffering, and allows us to live fully in every moment. And isn't that why we're here?

In response to the universal desire to eliminate pain, vast arrays of spiritual and intellectual practices have been established for our consumption. Powerfully observed healing modalities have been designed to transcend suffering and to help us find peace. Well-meaning teachers who hold the promise of healing emerge from these systems, and we cherry-pick the ones who suit our purposes. In all of our efforts, though, we have missed one critical detail: we cannot heal something by despising and rejecting it. We heal by accepting the truth in every moment.

As it stands now, our relationship to pain revolves around fear. We fear the physical discomfort it portends, and we fear the fallout of what our pain might show us about our true selves. Our deep-seeded self-loathing, arising from the denial of half of who we are (beings who carry pain), leads us to fear our own innate badness, and we believe that our pain is proof of our rotten nature. In response, we run. But it is this intense fear of pain that causes our misery, not the pain itself. The fear creates a storm in our solar plexus that dictates our decisions and creates chaos in our lives.

The pain waiting in the shadows is quiet and patient. It has time. It is willing to wait. It will be gentle when we finally arrive at its doorstep. The fear is the real monster. It deceives us and alienates us. It encourages us to believe that pain is the Infidel, when pain is really the innocent part of our hearts that leads to our expansion. When we give in to our fear, and believe its lies, it rears up, like an angry stallion, and looks down at us as we needlessly cower in the face of truth. The more we cower, the more it bucks, and, eventually, kicks. The more it kicks, the more we suffer. Our fear and ignorance is the perpetrator of our demise. Our pain is the healing balm that washes fear away.

When we create space for the pain as it emerges, and bravely turn away from fear, our suffering is soothed. We begin to relax into ourselves and to find refuge in our own hearts. We learn to love every single part of our humanity equally. In the face of surrender, we no longer attempt to control the uncontrollable, and instead welcome each moment as it comes.

Our emotional lives become balanced. Ecstasy and agony meet in the middle as extremes become a thing of the past. Materialism no longer holds sway, because we stop believing that acquiring things will save us from ourselves. We stop wanting to be saved at all. We become willing to stay right where we are. We finally realize that where we are is the only place we will ever be.