When we’re in pain, we want to get out of pain.
We don’t want to ask a lot of questions, we don’t want to split hairs, we don’t want to appreciate nuance— we’re hurting, and we want to not hurt.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get out of pain.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get out of pain. Almost every living organism has that instinct.
In our culture, though, we’re kind of embarrassed about it.
We’re supposed to be “tough.” We’re supposed to be able to tolerate pain and push through it to achieve our goals and live our dreams, right?
Wanting to get out of pain is seen by some as “weak.”
It seems there are entire industries built around shaming us for wanting to get out of pain.
Our pain is often questioned. “Is it really that bad?”
Our pain is sometimes doubted or disregarded. “Oh, you’re fine.”
Some people seem to believe that when others express that they are in pain, they are “attention seeking” or somehow looking to shirk their responsibilities.
“Are you REALLY so sick you can’t come in?”
“Is this REALLY that big a deal that you’re THIS impacted by it?”
Don’t get me wrong: there are situations where pushing through discomfort or pain is the thing to do. There are goals that can’t be reached without enduring a certain amount of pain.
But because we choose, for whatever reason, to push through the pain, doesn’t mean the pain doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t effect us.
When we experience pain over the long term, and that pain seems inescapable and pervasive, we can develop a real sense of hopelessness.
That hopelessness can be multiplied if the people in our lives who should, by rights, care that we’re in pain, don’t want to hear about it.
In my experience, people rarely express that they’re in pain to cause “drama.”
I think when most people are expressing that they are in discomfort or pain, they’re seeking support. Care. And, yes, attention— because it’s really hard to get your needs met if you’re hell bent on never calling attention to them.
If we come to believe our pain doesn’t matter, it’s a short leap to the conclusion that WE don’t matter.
That’s why we have to acknowledge our own pain.
Even if we don’t like it, even if we disapprove of it, even if we have a voice in our heads telling us that we don’t have the “right” to express our pain or ask for support.
Others may deny and disown our pain and our needs— but it’s really important that we don’t do that.
Others may have abandoned us when we needed them— but it’s really important that we don’t abandon ourselves.
Some of the people reading this know how frustrating it can be to keep trying and trying and TRYING to find mental health professionals who can help them, especially in light of how expensive and inconvenient many options for mental and behavioral health care are.
I’ve had people tell me I’m their tenth (or twentieth!) therapist.
Their previous options didn’t pan out, for various reasons— but they kept looking.
That takes tremendous endurance— and it requires us to believe that our pain matters, and it’s worth it to keep trying to alleviate our pain.
Our pain matters because we matter. Our quality of life, matters.
Maybe you don’t believe that right now. It’s hard to keep believing it, when you’ve been beaten over the head with the opposite message for years.
But it’s true. Both your pain, and your quality of life, matter.
That’s what I think, anyway.
Repeat as necessary.
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