Her cries are still ringing in my ears as they pierced through the room.
“It hurts!… (sob)… It hurts so bad!… (cry)… Can’t anyone do anything about this pain?… (sob)… It just hurts so bad! (cry)…” She would quiet down for a moment, and then begin again. “It hurts!… (sob)… It hurts so bad! (cry)… Can’t anyone do anything about this pain? (sob)… It just hurts so bad! (cry)…”
On and on and on she cried, having let go of any and all self-control due to the pain she felt. Joanne cried and cried and cried that night, loudly interrupting the sleep of 30 women in the room with her and 150 men across the other side of the barrier separating the men from the women. Our homeless shelter is used to evening interruptions, but the intensity and emotion of her cry was so poignant that you could feel it every time she opened her mouth. Finally, we called Emergency Medical Services.
To back up for a moment, when Joanne walked into the shelter, she appeared to be fine. She walked in on her own strength, and seemed cheerful and pleasant, as always. Upon signing in, she went right to bed, and appeared to be in no pain at all. But, Joanne struggles with addiction, and our best guess is that as she fell asleep and the drugs wore off, the pain, which the drugs so skillfully masked, was now being exposed. The pain was always there, but it was not felt due to the masking power of the drug.
As I was thinking about this, I thought about how true this is in so many of our lives. We carry pain; sometimes loads and loads of serious pain. But, we have become adept at dulling our pain. These “pain-relievers” can be actual drugs or alcohol, or a relationship, money, success, perhaps a certain career. It can be a level of education or attaining some great goal. It can be an experience or event; something we do. But the bottom line is that as long as our “drug” lasts, the pain is dulled and we don’t have to deal with it.
But, the reality is that at some point, our pain relievers wear off. The relationship may end, or the job may be terminated. The money runs out. The experience loses its impact. The praise ceases. But whatever it is, the “pain-reliever” fades and the underlying wound, which was always there but pushed down, is now back in our face screaming to be dealt with. And at that moment, like Joanne, we all have a choice.
1) “D” – Decide To Stop Medicating – At some point, we have to turn off the illusions and get real. We have to stop medicating our pain, masking its existence in the hope that it will go away. We need to make a choice to deal with it, though that is far more difficult than continuing to simply relieve the pain. Pain is always temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but it will eventually subside and something else will take its place. If we quit, however, it lasts forever.
2) “E” – Explore The Pain – Where did it some from? Why is the pain here? Are current events exclusively responsible, or are current events simply re-igniting a pain that has been dormant within for some time? Knowing the source of your pain helps to disarm its power and gives you a clear path to take the next step…
3) “A” – Accept Responsibility For Getting Whole – The biggest challenge people have in dealing with their pain is the fact that in about 90% of the situations, the person in pain is not responsible for their pain. They are sufferers of abuse or neglect or abandonment or mistreatment. This can often lead to a bit of a “victim” mentality, where they are waiting for someone to come along and “fix” them.
From my own experience, I know. I was hurt. And I allowed myself to become a victim, hoping that as one had hurt me, someone else would heal me. Time and experience “painfully” taught me that I need to heal myself, and this timeless truth: Though others may have been responsible for causing my pain, only I am responsible for dealing with it.
Part of accepting responsibility is also owning the need to break free of our fear, anxiety, stress, and worry. People in pain often develop higher levels of fear and anxiety than others. Though breaking free is a process, and takes effort, there are some amazing tools here for Breaking Free of Fear: http://www.breakingfreeoffear.com/
4) “L” – Love Yourself, Respect Yourself, Be Kind To Yourself – Dealing with your pain, and healing your pain, as I have learned, is a journey ultimately about loving yourself, respecting yourself, and being good to yourself. This is not some selfish, self-centered, “all about me” type of world where all that matters is you. It is about carving out little slices of time, precious moments where you can nurture and tend to your own needs before the needs of the world. Taking time in the hot tub, time in the spa or with a massage therapist, time to exercise, time to prepare and eat your favorite meal, time to read a book, time with precious friends, time with a Life Coach, time to volunteer, time to pray or reflect or meditate. When we do these things, we are far better equipped to help others in the long run anyways.
Joanne did get help that night, and my hope is that in my life in yours, when the medication dulls and the pain roars, we will take some time to “D.E.A.L.” with it.
Abe Brown is the Coach’s Coach, and is the Founder and President of Momentum Coaching, and the President of the Certified Coaches Federation. Momentum Coaching has experienced triple digit growth for several years running, and the Certified Coaches Federation has trained and certified over 10,000 Life and Executive Coaches in the last 8 years. Abe does Leadership and Executive Coaching, and works with profit-based, and non-profit organizations around strategic planning, cultivating fully engaged employees, and facilitating coaching and training programs. He has also worked with several small, medium, and large businesses to accelerate revenue growth and maximize engagement.