Why Embracing Pain Is the Gateway to Growth

Written by Jeanne Weierheiser

The idea of embracing pain may sound masochistic. Pain isn’t something that we generally invite into our lives. But, what if, every time pain came knocking on our door, we invited it in, welcomed it, offered it some tea?

For many of us who experienced early childhood trauma, we can feel trapped inside endless cycles of emotional pain. There are moments that feel free of pain, but then, someone brushes up against our old unhealed wounds and there we go again, back in despair, angst, sadness.

We’re lying on the floor broken, wondering when we will finally learn? When will we put an end to our self destructive patterns? When will implicit trust replace self doubt? Will we ever really feel whole? Will we ever feel solid ground beneath our feet?

The answers to all the above questions lies in the pain itself. Our early childhood trauma stunted our emotional development. Whenever someone or some situation brushes up against one of our old wounds, we go right back into fight, flight or freeze mode. In our psyche, that moment of trauma is suspended; frozen in time.

Our psyche does not know the difference between what is real in the present and what is being triggered from the past. Our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and our emotional body time travels to the moment of the original wound and we react from that place. Our physical body responds as if we were actually experiencing the danger in the present. Confusion sets in. Judgment from ourselves and others compounds our triggered emotions and we spiral into unhealthy coping mechanisms like anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Pain is an invitation to deal with the unfinished business of our past. Responding to situations that trigger our emotional upheaval can spark real, lasting healing. Part of this process is to imagine yourself as a child and to console that child. It may feel contrived and self indulgent, but this is an exercise in self-compassion that is vital to our emotional well being, allowing us to become better mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and partners. If we feel any aversion to this practice we need to ask, “why?”

When we follow our pain back to the original source of our wound and acknowledge that the sadness, anxiety, and despair are not actually a result of something happening in the present, but the result of a past trauma, we gain the objectivity necessary to step back and meet our own emotional needs.

We get quiet with our pain, follow it to its source, ask for an image of the part of us who experienced the original wound, and we offer our love and support to that part of us. Just as if we were consoling a child who has been hurt, we embrace that wounded part of us, console her without judgement or a need to control or fix the situation. We connect with presence and compassion.

The most difficult part of this practice is that the results are often NOT instantaneous. It takes time to build a bridge between our present self and our past. Just like any other relationship, trust is earned over time and with consistency.

When we take such a holistic approach to healing our childhood trauma, our stunted emotional development that once kept us stuck in a perpetual cycle of suffering, flourishes and new, healthier behaviors are adopted. Situations that once triggered pain take on new meaning and we develop a deeper understanding of our self. We tap into an authenticity and self assurance that can not be shaken by external circumstances.

Our relationships with others become deeper while some fall away altogether. The world looks different, as if we are looking at it through new eyes. Our tragic past becomes a gift that shapes us into authentic, whole human beings. We can look at the trespasses of others with the acknowledgement that they too have burdens from their past that influence their present behavior. We can forgive and let go.

Letting our pain break us wide open allows us to tap into the nectar that is our essential nature, our True Self. It’s a catalyst for creativity, passion, and contented peace. It’s a commitment to walk through the fire and let all that is not the truth within us burn away. It’s terrifying, yet liberating. It requires nothing more than silence, a willingness to listen and faith that something far better resides beyond our pain.

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