6 Steps to Transform Pain Into Learning
Pain is an inherent part of life just like joy or pleasure. We tend to think that it is a fatal accident, a whim of fate, but it’s nothing more than an extension of our existence. Thus, we cannot avoid it. Every effort against it will be exhausting and useless.
Pain, just like happiness, gets us closer to our essence. Both pain and happiness provide us with important lessons, and they serve to guide our steps through life.
But many times we turn pain into suffering. Into a an eternal bitter taste in our mouth that we can even end up savoring in an strange way. And we are the ones who suffer the most… since in some way it is as if we desperately look for even more suffering than there already is.
Suffering is an add-on to pain, not the pain itself
It is not bad or negative to feel nostalgia. Nor is it bad to want to spend some alone time with your pain. In fact, it is sometimes necessary to have these moments. Have that cup of coffee with yourself. That encounter with your humanity.
The most unsettling part is all of the weight that we add onto ourselves while we climb that steep mountain we sometimes choose for ourselves. This causes even more suffering than we’re already feeling. We add on this extra weight when, for example, we say that this sadness will last forever. That it is not limited, that we are bound to its will.
Transforming our pain into a learning experience
But there is good news: we can put a stop to this extra suffering. Better yet, we can turn it into a learning experience which will exponentially increase our existential wisdom.
How? Jose Antonio Garcia-Monge, a psychologist, explained it in one of his books. He said that when someone has participated in the personal process through which so many restless minds have traveled, it reaches a level of wisdom which lets it prove once and time again that it is human and inseparable from the act of living. Yet, suffering is an artifice that we add on, and which we can simply strip ourselves of.
1. We have to recognize it
We must identify our suffering. Know if it is a pain that affects you in a psychic, physical, social, or existential way… There are different types, and we have to be capable of recognizing them. We have to stare it in the face and stay with this suffering for a moment. Remain in that special encounter which we spoke of earlier.
2. Maintain an honest dialogue with it
To commence a dialogue with your suffering, you have to be clear on something. Pain warns us that something isn’t right. Something is interrupting our mental peace. Thus, we have to understand where that pain is coming from and why it is appearing.
By answering these questions, we will already have made an enormous accomplishment. But, in order to do so, you have to be honest and listen to what this pain wants to tell you. It does no good to flee from it or to listen to it halfheartedly. You have to listen with all of your senses and with the greatest sincerity possible, since pain bares and uncovers us completely.
3. Don’t turn it into suffering
As Garcia-Monge says, “Pain can burn a part of our body. Suffering has the power to deteriorate the entire individual.” Such a true phrase… suffering has the power to block your mind completely and, therefore, disable you.
We turn our pain into suffering the moment in which we project it in time. We attribute an infinite permanence to it. Also, we enlarge it with catastrophic messages that we send ourselves, messages void of hope.
4. Assume responsibility for it
This doesn’t mean to blame yourself. Guilt, far from giving you peace, evaporates it. Accepting responsibility for our pain implies recognizing what you are doing to increase it. To make it grow and grow so that a mild drizzle ends up turning into a flood.
How can I help myself or how can I ask for help in order to handle it the best way possible? Passing my responsibility onto others is, once again, a useless practice which will end up producing even more pain. In fact, it is one of the shortest-lived deceits.
5. Liberate yourself from it without changing its place
With the previous steps, we will already have achieved a lot. The previous steps give you peace, which we cannot find when we delay our appointment with pain over and over. We need a one-on-one face-to-face encounter.
Maybe I can appease it with something that will help me and something that will anchor me to life. Each person is unique and knows what can help them and what can’t. There are no solutions that are equally effective for all. There are no magic fix-alls. This is the process of living.
6. Mature because of it (or despite it)
“Know existentially that you are bigger than your own pain” said Garcia-Monge. Being bigger that our pain implies accepting that we are NOT our pain, not solely and exclusively.
We are more than our pain. It implies recognizing that we have very powerful resources that we have to discover and use in order to help and accompany us in this difficult transition. One that is tough but human, which is that of passing from pain to learning.
So, to all of those people that are going through a tough time, I invite you to listen to yourself with the honesty that this requires. I invite you to accept what is your own, and not anyone else’s, and to hug yourself. At the end of the day, this is the learning process of our lives.