The goal is not to get rid of the pain. The goal is to enter it. Go through the pain. Feel it and feel through the pain. The way out of the pain is to go through it.
Pain is part of life. It comes with the human journey. We cannot avoid pain. In fact, it is to our best interest that we do not. When we avoid entering the pain, the deeper the pain becomes.
Experiencing pain is a very normal and natural part of the human journey. When we numb ourselves, when we numb our pain, when we deny ourselves of the experience of pain, when we turn to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, superficial affirmations and positive thinking and other similar New Age/spiritual jargon to avoid our pain, it only leads to dissociation. The various aspects of our selves end up more fragmented.
The more we avoid feeling our way through the pain, the more painful our experience becomes. The farther away we are from healing and attaining balance and integration. The more we suffer.
And I learned that we confuse pain with suffering that is why we put so much effort in avoiding the pain when what we are actually avoiding — rightfully, I must add — is suffering. We can choose to not suffer even if we are in pain. In fact, we don’t have to suffer despite the pain. Suffering, unlike pain, is a choice.
And I learned all these the painful way. The more I avoided or denied the pain, the more painful was my experience and the more pain-filled I became. The more I suffered.
I also learned that one way to avoid suffering is to romance with the pain. Become intimate with it.
The theme of my recent posts has been around grieving and forgiving. I’ve also referred quite a bit to Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D.’s Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. It truly is an invaluable tool that I highly recommend it to every spiritual ‘seeker.’
The term ‘spiritual bypassing’ was first coined by John Welwood. It was Dr. Masters though who first published a book on the topic. Spiritual bypassing is a common ‘malpractice’ amongst the New Age community and spiritual circles — yours truly, being one of the many who has ‘committed’ it.
It is what has kept me going ‘round in circles in my process of forgiveness — or unforgiveness. What I thought was me being spiritual was, in fact, what’s blocking me from spiritualizing my humanness. I was de-humanizing my very being and personhood — thinking, believing, I was being spiritual in doing so, and doing otherwise makes me un-spiritual.
What exactly do I mean?
I had thought that feeling all the so-called ‘negative’ or ‘toxic’ or ‘low-vibrating’ emotions such as anger, fear, pain, guilt, shame, etc. made me precisely that — low vibrating and unspiritual. And I had thought that the goal was for me to be without such energies, i.e., to not experience any of these ‘toxic’ emotions.
Yet, rejecting such emotions and denying myself of experiencing and feeling them only add to the already surmounting pile of repressed, unconscious material. Then something triggers me, and I suddenly find myself getting upset at the slightest provocation. Then, I get angry for getting angry! (Duh!)
After all, if I am spiritual, am I not supposed to be unfazed by anything ‘negative’ around me? Am I not supposed to be in constant peace and bliss, always calm and cool, smiling and ever-joyful? You know, in an aum state, if not ‘aum-ing’ all the time?
With the help of Miriam Greenspan’s Healing through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair, I also realized that it isn’t the emotion per se that is toxic. It is our relationship to it. How we view the emotion and how we respond to it is what makes the emotion (and us) toxic.
Therefore, the goal is not to get rid of the pain but to become intimate with it. The very thing that we think will relieve us of the pain — avoidance or denial — is what leads to more pain and to our suffering. When we abhor the pain, when we feel appalled by it, the more attached to it we become. And that is the beginning of our suffering.
“When we are caught up in spiritual bypassing, we want the treasure without having to face the dragon, believing that any negative thoughts or emotions require no more than waving our magic wand of positive thoughts and intentions to be conquered. The dragon, however, cannot be so easily pushed aside! It is so easy to get negative about negativity, turning away from our pain and whatever else reminds us that all is not well, regardless of our beliefs to the contrary. Turning toward our pain is an act of radical caring—and not just caring for ourselves—because in doing so we cease to fuel our avoidance and those addictive behaviors we have used to keep ourselves removed from pain. In turning toward our pain, we also, however indirectly, turn toward others’ pain, both on the personal and collective level, (in both personal and collective contexts), and so our compassion for others deepens and widens. And that turning toward, that courageous choice to become intimate with our pain and its roots, asks for much, much more than just a mere belief in or parroting of what we’ve been taught or read about our true nature. To emerge from our pain, we have to enter it.”
~ Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D.
When I enter the pain and become intimate with it, the pain may still remain but my relationship to it would have transformed. Pain no longer enslaves me. I don’t feel victimized by it. I’m no longer run by the energy of my pain.
And that is the treasure that we find after having faced, instead of avoided, the dragon. That is finding the gift in the wound, the essence of Chiron Return.
I’ve written extensively about the most pivotal astrological Chiron Return phase that I went through last year. I‘m still tying loose ends, but the intensity of the emotional pain is no longer as disheartening.
I’ve found the gift of the wound that is in the wound itself. It is where healing lies. It is where the treasure can be found.
To find the gift, I needed to face the dragon. I needed to come face-to-face with my pain, my wounds and my demons. Face — not fight. Romance — not denounce. Become intimate with instead of reject it.
Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D. sums it up so aptly —
“The healing of pain is found in pain itself.”
- The path to healing is through by A Kintsugi Life: Finding the Treasure in Life’s Scars
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