Pain is not the same as damage. Something can hurt without causing harm.
In fact, it’s hard to find any kind of growth that doesn’t cause pain. This is partially because of the “no pain, no gain” principle – growth is change, and change hurts. Even the smallest changes require some degree of uncomfortable discipline. Even when a change is clearly for the better, you might still feel a pang of loss for the familiar way things used to be. Choosing to change means choosing to suffer, at least a little bit.
But what about the suffering we don’t choose? What about the pain that’s just there?
We don’t get to choose whether or not we suffer. But we do get to choose what we do with our pain.
The worst choice is to let your pain goad you into causing pain to others. This the path of the bully, the abuser, the customer who yells at the waiter. There’s nothing good down that path (but it’s never too late to turn back from it).
The common choice is to push your pain to the side. Do your best to numb it out with distraction or denial, ignore it whenever you can. This is the path of the discouraged and the overburdened. It works temporarily. But over time, as you keep trying to numb out your pain, you’ll start numbing out the good stuff too.
The brave choice is to listen to your pain. To see your pain not as a tormenter sent to punish you, but a guide sent to grant you wisdom. To find clues as to your unmet needs, and what to do next to create the life you want. To allow yourself to feel your pain, to express it, to sit with someone wise and caring who can help you explore it.
The pain of loneliness is a guide pointing to your need for connection.
The pain of listlessness is a guide pointing to your need to do something that matters
The pain of shame is a guide pointing to your need for compassion.
Within each wound is a compass, pointing you to growth.
Sit with your pain. Let yourself feel it, express it, talk about it with someone who cares about you and can help you explore it. Let yourself learn what you need. Let yourself be taught how to grow.