Shieet. That was my first thought about writing this. I feel my stomach turning and my heart beating. Much less, though, than when Tuulia first suggested I could write one of these. I’m super grateful, too. And happy. And excited. I notice I’m straightening my back.
Oh, yes: Hello, dear honesty folks!
I’m Jessu, a fellow radical. 30 years old and living in Turku, Finland.
I want to write to you about pain. I imagine for a long time I had “quite” a complicated relationship with pain, especially emotional pain. It was something I wanted to get rid of as fast as possible, often without even realizing I was in pain (and totally unaware of wanting to get rid of it). I distracted myself (and still sometimes do) by smoking, eating sugar and being social. And probably a bunch of other stuff I haven’t realized yet. Sometimes I even find myself trying to manage the pain of others, just to avoid feeling it myself.
Avoiding pain is a basic survival instinct for most beings. We have evolved to avoid physical pain as it has often been a sign that something is wrong and potentially life threatening. At some point after the amoeba-phase, we humans (maybe along with some other creatures) have evolved to use those same pathways we use to sense physical pain to also sense emotional pain. And often we want to avoid it just as much, sometimes even more than the physical pain. And often it feels like it will kill us. Luckily, it usually doesn’t.
Regardless of the multitude of ways I distracted myself, worked with myself and processed stuff, pain came back. Again and again and again. At some point, I noticed that pain isn’t the same as suffering.
I feel tears coming up and my back relaxing.
Life is painful. Life hurts like hell. We lose all that we have, our loved ones, our health, our possessions. And it’s okay. That’s the deal.
And sometimes it’s not okay. That’s okay, too.
Sometimes I resist the pain and make myself suffer loads. Other times, I have space to be with my pain, really experiencing it. And make no mistake: it’s painful. But I’m not telling myself I shouldn’t be in pain. I can be a bit more relaxed and let the pain flow through. I know it won’t last forever.
I wanted to write this as I imagine there’s a trend that people shouldn’t be in pain. That pain is something that needs to be worked through whenever it emerges and loads of things ought to be done in the name of avoiding potential pains (careful how you speak, not to offend others; maybe you ought to take a painkiller before the headache starts; etc.).
If I try to cut myself off from feeling pain, I am on the path of slowly killing myself. I cut myself off from my experience and connection.
In Radical Honesty workshops I’ve seen again and again that pain is something we all share. When we let ourselves really sense our pain and see the pain in others, then pain is a place to connect from. Pain is a place of vulnerability. Pain is a place from where we can access the depths of our being.
In the last year and a half, pain has become more of my friend.
From where I look at it now, the point isn’t to find ways to get rid of the pain. The point for me has become to create more space in myself to be alright sensing my pains and the pain of others. And to remember that pain works in mysterious ways. What once was the most terrible feeling ever might be the greatest gift of tomorrow. It might be the best thing ever to have happened. And it’s okay.