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Letting it Hurt

How do you deal with pain?

I had a girl in my second grade class… that would plunge into her own misery if she ever got hurt. I remember one day that she stepped on something while crossing the lawn… She crouched down and grabbed her foot, pouting and coccooning into herself. If anyone tried to help, she would shriek them away furiously… and then go right back to her wallowing.

I suppose we all have some way of dealing with pain.

I certainly have moments when I am feeling something harsh, something unpleasant, something painful - and I mean emotionally painful - and I ask myself, “Well, what do I do?”

But the truth is that my mind is the second grader in this story, who is at a loss for answers; while my body is already well on the way toward healing. And the best thing I can do is to let it do its thing.

Our bodies have an incredible capacity for healing. They begin to resolve a problem the very instant it happens. The truth is that we are the ones who get in its way. It is true that if the cause is still happening, we have to act: Are you standing on hot coals? By all means, move over. Are you forcing yourself to stay in a relationship that you don’t really want? By all means, move out.

But more often than not, we find ourselves in a situation where there is really only just pain: The pain of injury, the pain of loss, the pain of disappointment. And we have such a hard time accepting our pain, that we hurry to fix it: We drink, we smoke, we take pills, we change the subject, we pretend everything is ok. This is when pain really gets damaging: When it is ignored.

So what are we supposed to DO with pain?

It’s quite simple: You let it hurt.

Trust your body. Your body, and your soul even more so, will heal. You are going to be fine. Let yourself feel your pain.

If you do not, you will be piling on silly remedies that will only make things worse. You will be preventing your body from healing by making it needlessly tense and stressed out.

And as the Dalai Lama said, you will lose the lesson.

I suppose the real question is: What can you do when the pain feels overwhelming?

Again, in truth, it is not. You will be fine if you can trust your body. Just let it hurt, and it will pass. And over time, your trust will grow - so that you will be capable of getting through more things, with less stress and worry than before. This is a big part of the process of life that we sometimes call “growing”.

But if you feel like it is too much, then find a safe way to vent: Scream. Move. Dance. Exercise. Cry. Get a punching bag. Talk to someone. Go for a hike. Play the clarinet. We all have ways to get our pain out, in a safer and healthier way than denying it exists, and preventing our bodies from healing naturally.

And the best thing for pain, in my experience, is hugs.

Photo by Igor Érico,


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