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The Self-Discovery Digest

by Elizabeth and Katherine Hirsh
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June 2010 Archives

The Gift of Pain

Recently one of us was experiencing jaw pain and went to the dentist only to discover that she needed surgery, and expensive surgery at that. She felt frustrated at the thought of having the procedure and at spending money she had not expected to spend. Then she considered the alternative: no pain and therefore no warning that something was wrong and thus the possibility that things would get worse and her whole jaw could be affected.

Suddenly the mouth pain, as well as having to get and pay for surgery, didn't seem that bad. In fact, upon reflection it seemed like a gift. The pain served an important purpose. It was a warning that something needed to be done. Of course physical pain is not the only sort we face - as is all too familiar, pain can strike in many forms. Below are some of the guises that pain can take and the gifts it might be offering us.

Heartbreak: When someone we love hurts us.
Gift: We have an opportunity to change the relationship, including recognizing any role we might have played in the conflict, speaking up about what we want and what we won't tolerate, or leaving the relationship because it is no longer healthy for us.

Grief: When a loved one dies.
Gift: We are reminded of the importance of living our best lives now, honoring those who've passed by enjoying the people and doing the things that are truly important to us.

Regret: When we've a made a mistake or failed to take action.
Gift: We can make amends, make a commitment to do things differently next time, as well as forgive ourselves and use it as a reminder that we're only human and that others, when they let us down, are only human too.

Boredom: When we feel trapped and apathetic.
Gift: We can take advantage of being in this stuck place by asking ourselves what is blunting our zest for life, choosing to face what's holding us back, and then seeking out those people, places, and things that would renew our spirit and boost our energy.

Exhaustion: When we are overwhelmed and can't take on another thing.
Gift: We are informed by our physical and mental fatigue that we have been doing too much, handling too many responsibilities on our own, and that now is the time to re-prioritize, putting ourselves and our own needs on the list - preferably at the top - since to care for others we must care for ourselves.

Self-Discovery Tool #27
What is your pain telling you? What is it asking you to attend to that you might be overlooking or avoiding? Shift your perspective about pain's purpose in your life: take time to examine and explore the gifts it can provide. Be grateful for its signal to take care of yourself: mind, body, and spirit!