Turns out, Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D. wrote a book focused mainly on pain and suffering.
Dr. Masters is the author of Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. It is a book that I’ve made reference to quite a bit in my posts, including the most recent one, where I talked about how we can “meet the dragon by entering our pain in order to end our suffering.”
In Meeting the Dragon: Ending Our Suffering By Entering Our Pain, Dr. Masters expounds on this idea of healing the pain by entering it, a technique that I first learned back in 2002 when I attended a Landmark Forum workshop held in Manila, Philippines.
There sure is something in the collective that’s coming up for healing and clearing around the area of pain and suffering as a few other posts talk about the same topic.
What exactly does this technique entail? How do we apply it in situations when we are in pain?
We name the pain. We identify it without identifying with it.
And how is this?
We give pain a name. We describe its texture. Color. Taste. Dimension. Intensity. Depth. We get as specific and as detailed as possible.
From where is the pain coming? Where exactly in the physical body is it located?
Often, the physical location of the pain helps in identifying the emotion behind it which helps narrow down the reason for the pain and the solution to address it.
For example, anger commonly manifests as pain in the head, neck and shoulder areas. Regret, loneliness and grief are usually felt in the chest area. The stomach area is often the container of our fear, anxiety and discomfort.
What is the emotion behind the pain?
There are many emotions to choose from. We can pick one that fits to a ‘T.’ Or there can be two or three. The important thing is to not stop with the declaration that “I am in pain.” It’s only a starting point.
We can and we need to go deeper. We need to peel away the layers and identify the feelings and emotions accompanying the pain.
Is it anger? Shame? Embarrassment? Guilt? Envy? Jealousy? Disappointment? Frustration? Regret? Resentment? Fear? Worry? Anxiety?
The more specific we can become, the easier it will be for us to get to the root of the pain, which is really the ultimate goal and intention — to identify what is the cause of the pain, that which triggers the emotion/s.
Sometimes, we cannot get out of pain — and eventually end up suffering — because we cannot even be clear about what we truly feel. Or we may be too numb to even feel.
Often, pain is a mask for something underneath. It is when we determine the real cause of the pain that we can come out of it — and come out of it healed. When we know the cause — pain’s message — it’s easier for us to take steps to address the cause and heal the wound.
It isn’t ‘my pain;’ It is simply ‘the experience of pain.’
Becoming intimate with pain does not mean pain becomes an essential part of us. Becoming intimate with pain does not mean owning it.
In dealing with pain, I am careful, cautious and conscious that I do not refer to pain as ‘my pain.’ Rather, ‘the pain that I am experiencing.’
Using this kind of reference is one way to not identify with the pain. When we do not own the pain, we do not identify with it. At the same time, we are not rejecting it or dissociating from pain. We are honoring it by acknowledging our experience of pain, but we do not possess it nor are we possessed by it.
As I said in my earlier post, “experiencing pain is a very normal and natural part of the human journey, but we don’t have to suffer despite the pain. Suffering, unlike pain, is a choice.”
And pain can simply be that — one of our experiences. It doesn’t need to be one of our possessions, to which we later become attached, eventually leading to our suffering.
The use of the words may be subtle, but the difference in the energy and the intention behind the words is huge. Huge difference. And it is what matters more.
When our intention is to simply acknowledge the pain but not be ruled by it or possessing it — as is the energy that we put out when we say ‘our pain,’ — the message that we’re sending both to the pain and to the Universe is that we — instead of the pain — are in control. By not giving the power to pain, or by taking back whatever power we’ve given to it, healing can begin to take place.
It is one way how to identify pain but not identify with it.
Like with any intimate relationship, becoming intimate with pain is striking a balance between co-dependence and independence, and aiming instead for interdependence.
We can be close to the pain but still keep a healthy distance. It is one way of having an intimate relationship with pain — a relationship whose sole purpose is not to make us suffer, but to assist in our growth.
May we heal from whatever pain we are experiencing by becoming intimate with it — without the need to go through any suffering.
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