A Painful Epiphany

Thursday, 3 August, 2023 - 11:37 am

The other day I was a complete captive, as there was an accident ahead of me, and 7,000 vehicles behind me. I had nowhere to go. So, what does one do when one is a captive of the road? To me, there are only three real options aside from brooding. One is to listen to music; two is to call someone; or three, to process thoughts. While brooding is also a part of processing thoughts, I don't really think that it accomplishes anything other than to continue the cycle of more brooding. Bottom line, I chose to give some time to something that has been on my mind as of late, the concept known as pain. The following paragraphs are the outcome of my epiphany on the road.

To be sure there are various types of pain, and in the hopes of clarity, I hope to elucidate some of the types of pain and agony that exist. There are obviously many nuances, and the fact that I have not brought them up is by no means any indicator that it is somehow unimportant.

There is not one person alive who has not experienced physical pain. From teething as an infant to growing pains as a child (growing pains was not something I had to deal with), sports injuries, broken bones, simple headaches, migraine headaches, period cramps, oral cavities, back twinges and in my specific case, blasted kidney stones. We all have physical pain at one point in our lives and we seek help from our parents to professionals to mitigate the pain. A little Tylenol for minor aches and pains, antibiotics for infections, nitrous oxide for root canal, etc. Once we mitigate the pain, we are ready to move on with our lives. The last thing we should do is simply live with pain. If a simple fix and/or a good night’s sleep does not make things right, we try the next step and go see a specialist.

There is another type of physical pain that does not get fixed that easily, chronic pain requires greater involvement and may necessitate an incredibly difficult journey, which can include multiple interventions. If someone needs to replace a knee due to chronic pain as an example, they need to have surgery and replace a part of the knee in order to be able to be pain free. While the rehabilitation involved is quite difficult, it beats living with chronic pain. Unfortunately, there does exist chronic pain that even surgery cannot nix. We then need to resort to strong meds. Unpleasant to say the least.

Another type of pain that is not necessarily physical is emotional pain. This pain is very real and does hurt quite a bit. Losing a loved one is very painful emotionally. It can be crippling and overwhelming. I always respond when someone shares that they are heartbroken after a loss; that pain is commensurate with love. The more you love and are connected with this person, the more the loss will be felt. Emotional pain can be due to a variety of reasons other than loss and for the most part are all real and factual. No one should dismiss someone else’s pain as being unsupportable or remark about the individual in pain that they are being melodramatic. Emotional pain is pure, raw and unadulterated anguish.
For the most part, I find that the closer we are to the person causing anguish the more pain results. A spouse can really ruin one’s emotional life as opposed to simply being annoyed at a contractor for not showing up. Let’s not even talk about one’s child and the resulting pain.
Emotional pain is a process that we have to go through until we are able to exit the rollercoaster ride after all the ups and downs are complete. The good news is that life experience is the best teacher, and a difficult event can drastically alter us for the better (or unfortunately, for the worst). I have found that some of my greatest challenges were teaching moments and I am able to help others who have had similar experiences to mine.  

Allowing emotional pain to linger day in and day out is not good. Lingering unresolved emotional pain is akin to allowing an oral cavity to continue wreaking havoc without attending to it. We all know, and if you don’t I will tell you from firsthand experience, that not addressing a small cavity ultimately can lead to requiring a root canal with a dentist (in my case I have dubbed him the Butcher of Babylon). Not pretty. Likewise, you know what happens if you do not set a broken bone properly? Lots more pain.
I heard an analogy recently that resonated with me. A vacuum cleaner is a remarkable invention and the way it sucks up dirt is brilliant. You just roll the head of the vacuum on the ground and all the shmutz disappears. That is until the bag is full and can no longer absorb a speck more of dirt. Once that happens the entire machine stops operating until the bag is emptied. Likewise, if we do not take care of our emotional pain, we will reach a point where we will be filled to the brim with toxicity and we will not be able to be a functioning human being.

Therefore, if one’s emotional pain at what transpired eons ago is still palpable, active and painful, then it needs to be addressed before it is crippling. This is especially true when the person or thing that caused you hurt is no longer in your life.

There is obviously the route of therapy. Everyone needs and deserves to have someone in their lives to talk to when the need arises to discuss familial hurt, pain, vulnerabilities and any and all issues that arise that need to be dealt with. There is nothing shameful in having someone who is trained to listen and to nudge you in the direction that you need to be nudged. The Mishna, a book that was written 2,500 years ago, discusses the obligation for everyone to find a mentor to discuss issues pertaining to one’s life.

One must also address oneself with resolve with the following few comments:

“I am not going to allow this emotional trauma that happened to me to control me. Instead, I am going to be in control of it. I am the host, and this debilitating thought is simply a guest and not a permanent resident. I now choose to be rid of this parasitical guest that seeks to overwhelm me. No longer will I allow this to continuously fester. Pain, you are no longer welcome in my life. I am the master of my own destiny, and I have now decided that you are done. I will not allow this fabricated pain (as the issue causing pain is no longer a part of your life and has not been for a while) distract me from my greater mission of being a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted person who wishes to live to the fullest. Goodbye pain and good riddance.” 

The above-based approach is based on a Kabbalistic approach by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the famed book called Tanya.

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