What is Your Pain Telling You to Do?
Psychological pain has the same alarm-system function as physical pain.
Whether it is physical or psychological, pain is never about the past; it always about the present. The pain you feel by remembering a past injury or betrayal is not caused by the past event; it is caused by thinking about the past event now.
Pain is not punishment inflicted on you by someone else, nor is it self-punishment for mistakes. The purpose of physical and psychological pain is to motivate behavior that will heal, correct, and improve. The pain in your foot tells you to change your shoes. The pain in your heart tells you to be true to your deepest values.
Mistaking pain for punishment stimulates motivation to withdrawal or attack, which can only be damaging to love relationships.
Numbing or avoiding pain with alcohol, drugs, or blame strips it of its vital function as a motivator of improvement. Attempts to reduce pain through avoidance, numbing, or blame invariably create feelings of powerlessness, which, in turn, stimulate resentment and anger.
Here are the crucial questions to ask about your pain:
Shame, perhaps the worst psychological pain, never tells you that you’re a failure. This is tricky, because when you were a child and felt shame, somebody probably told you that you were a bad boy or girl. But the shame is merely telling you that you are cut off from your core value. If you follow the motivation of shame -- instead of short-circuiting it with resentment, anger, or alcohol -- it will lead to your core value.
The Shame Motivation Checklist
When you feel shame (it will come out as resentment, anger, defensiveness, criticism, contempt, or disgust), attempt the following in order:
___ Sympathize with your partner’s anxiety, discomfort, or pain
___ Reassure him or her
___ Feel the love you have for him or her
___ Realize the meaning your partner adds to your life
___ Express your love
Pain vs. Suffering
The difference between pain and suffering is that pain is a motivation to heal, correct, and improve, while suffering is failure to act on the motivation to heal, correct, and improve.
Suffering has to do with victim-identity. The only cure for victim-identity is to identify with your core value rather than how you are treated. Your value as a person is not dependent on how you are treated but on what you do.