Your Pain Is Not That Special, but You Are
What is the most excruciating experience you’ve ever had? How did it change you?
Are there other painful memories that keep coming up and dimming the light in your life?
We all internalize past pain, to varying degrees. Over time, pain becomes part of who we are. Any attempt to question or challenge the severity of our struggle is viewed as an attack on our very existence. And while we continue not only to identify with but defend the pain, we lose sight of a simple truth.
Before I keep going, I hope you can spare 5 minutes of your time and undivided attention. All you need is an open mind to consider a tiny shift in perspective when it comes to your relationship with pain and struggle.
The realization I’m sharing with you today gave me one of the biggest aha moments. It didn’t completely change my stance on pain. But it definitely loosened up the identity attached to it, and allowed me to question my attitude towards life and the people close to me.
If you’re ready, let’s start with an exercise in imagination to give pain a physical form.
The heavy burden of pain
Imagine that each painful memory, or experience is a rock. The deeper the pain, the bigger and heavier the rock. You place all your rocks in a backpack that you take with you everywhere.
How heavy is your bag? How do you feel?
Can you stand up straight with all these rocks weighing you down?
Do you have room to add more rocks to the backpack of pain and misery?
Who would you be if you dropped the backpack, or at least removed some rocks?
Here is the thing.
All the pain that you, and I, and every single human being on this planet carry, is not unique. We all suffer.
A dose of reality
Look around you. It’s not that hard to see, and feel the collective agony of humanity. Pain and adversity are universal. The timing and severity may vary, but it’s the same pain.
Put another way, the pain you experienced and will experience is not custom-made specially for you. No human being will go through this journey without experiencing profound loss and suffering.
Whatever the pain you’re dealing with, there are hundreds of thousands of people at any given moment who are going through the same thing, or have endured something similar, if not worse, in the past.
I’m in no way trying to dismiss, or diminish the devastation of suffering and anguish. My purpose is to remind you of a truth more important and powerful than pain.
The most special thing about pain
Let’s get back to the analogy of pain rocks. Are you the rocks? Are you the backpack?
Of course not. You are the one who encounters the rocks, puts them in your backpack, and carries them around.
What would happen if you dropped the entire bag and walked away?
Are you less of a person? Are you weaker because you’re not carrying your heavy pack? Do you lose the strength you gained from having to lift the rocks if you let them go? No.
So, by extension:
You are not your pain. You are not your stories and experiences. You are not a victim and you are not a victor.
What you are is:
You—a limitless stream of consciousness allowing life to unfold in a unique brilliant way that has never, nor will ever unfold the same exact way.
Going back to the analogy of the rocks, no one will see the rocks of struggle with the same eyes and from the same perspective as you. No one will use the same hands, or body, or travel the same journey.
Your physical body is one of a kind. Your thoughts, your actions, your situation, and the way you deal and interact with life can’t be ever replicated.
The way you achieve, the way you grieve, the way you feel, the way you cope, and the way you overcome can never ever come to life as you bring it—ever again.
The unique part of your experience is you—not your pain.
You might ask: How can I just drop the pain? Wouldn’t that mean I’m ignoring what life is trying to teach me?
No. Let’s look at it from another angle.
It’s not about the pain. It’s about the way the pain is felt and interpreted and processed—same pain, different experiencer. And from the experience, you can distill the lessons and move on.
How to honor and leverage your painful experience
Pain and struggle are inevitable. We can, however, re-frame the pain, and let go of the struggle.
Instead of carrying the rocks of the past, take them out and turn them into stepping stones to elevate yourself.
We don’t need to feel bad for ourselves or put the pain in the driver seat of our present. We don’t need to allow our egos to compete for who suffered most.
Why would we waste our precious moments dwelling over something that happens to a lot of us, instead of experiencing it and channeling it in our own unique way?
Harness the power of your unique ability to respond to life’s challenges.
Find the strength in loss. Uncover the wisdom within failure and defeat. Transform pain into beauty. And share what you create with the world. We’re in this ride together and we’re meant to connect with, and learn from each other.
And when the rocks feel overwhelmingly heavy, ask for help. The world is full of people who are willing to extend a helping hand.
You can’t control, or completely eliminate pain. But you can become the architect and artist of your journey.
Your life is a masterpiece that is as amazing as you. Embrace your one of a kind way of living life, feel your pain, learn and grow from it, and then let go.