There’s a natural inclination to avoid pain. We protect ourselves from physical and emotional hurt—usually at all costs. But pain can be a gift with the right perspective.
Have you ever loved someone or something dearly, only to have it taken away? Of course you have. Some endings are like a death to the soul. It’s heartbreaking. We grieve a loss of what once was and will never be again. It could be losing a job, throwing in the towel on a dream, giving up on an idea, and oftentimes the most painful… the ending of a personal relationship due to a break up or death.
Grieving is fluid, not linear and logical. In On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler Ross says there are five phases in the general grief structure:
These phases are merely touch points, not absolutes. Each consists of other feelings that may surface, and not every phase is hit by an individual.
For example, depression can manifest in many ways, varying from person to person. Some individuals never find acceptance. She may suppress her anger, which isn’t healthy. And he may deny the ending altogether. Both are doing whatever they can to avoid emotional pain.
Physical pain is “easier” to process for society. A cut, a scratch, a broken arm—it’s physical and tangible. We know how the body works in healing itself. But emotional pain doesn’t sit on the surface; it exists in the heart. The ache someone feels is at times unbearable. And since the majority of people aren’t those who actively seek pain for enjoyment, it’s natural to turn from it, given the choice.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Before I share it, I should state that I am not advocating masochism. Ok, here it is…the secret: Pain is beautiful, purposeful and necessary.
Hear me out. I’ll repeat it.
Pain is beautiful, purposeful, and necessary.
Now, I’m not the kind of girl who goes running around looking for situations that will break her heart, mind you. I am the kind of woman who believes that pain is a teacher of the highest caliber if we are willing to live in the moment with it, listen to it and experience it.
Some of the most impactful life lessons I’ve acquired over my 32 years are from moments within the grief cycle. Recently a biggie came from processing what acceptance truly means.
In the past year, I have had to close the door on a number of relationships, all types. It was never easy. We may care for and love others who—to be blunt—are just plain unhealthy and/or toxic for us. That doesn’t change the affection or love we had for them. Feelings aren’t like a fuse box where you can pick and choose the emotional rooms you turn on and off. Your emotions are like a single light switch. Turn it on and you feel everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. Turn it off, and you no longer feel the pain, but you also miss out on gratitude, joy, love and beauty.
Pain is beautiful because it is unique for each and every individual—like a snowflake or fingerprint.
Pain is purposeful because it can teach us things that we would not be able to see otherwise.
Pain is necessary because without it, we would not be able to experience the joys in life.
When we are living and working toward a state of higher consciousness and self-actualization, love flows more and more freely. And to quote Thomas Merton’s work, No Man Is an Island:
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
That is acceptance. We can hit that necessary phase in the grieving process of acceptance when we give up our perceptions and see others through soul-centered eyes.
What has a break up or an ending of any sort taught you? How have you allowed it to move you higher in your consciousness?
[image: via lauren rushing on flickr]