My mom tricked me. Straight up tricked me. She asked me if I wanted to go to a concert with her. I said sure! I love music – but not concerts. Too many people. But this was my mom, so I figured it would be some smallish type venue and some no-name Canadian artist. However, I find that the “no-name Canadian artists” are always the best kinda shows. Incidentally, the Calgary Music Scene has some pretty amazing musicians/bands/artists. I mean like wow. So I figured it would be okay! Then I start asking the details of the concert. When – Friday, Where – Centre Street Church, uhhhhh… no. I am not a church goer, but I said I would, so I did. The artist was Jason Gray. He was pretty inspiring. If you get a chance, check out his story on Wikipedia. Anyway, before he sang each song, he would intro it with a brief description of what the song was about or how he was inspired to write it. This one song in particular started out with a story about how he was having a particularly “painful season.” Yes. He said season. I’m totally not making this up. Ask my mom. It was during this time that he was on his tour bus and telling his friend about his “painful season” (He said it twice – true!) that he expected his friend to offer up some advice or tell him that it’s all going to be okay. But his friend said nothing. He listened. (There’s a story about how his friend gave him a 2 minute hug and I tried writing it but it seriously doesn’t do the story any justice) Jason went on to say that people don’t really know how to experience pain. Pain – their own pain or the pain other people are going through. How do you handle pain?
When people are experiencing pain there are generally 2 things that happen:
1 – We hide our pain so that we appear to others like everything is good.
When we hide our pain we are really saying, “I would rather you think that I am perfect. I would rather you think that I am something I am not. Invincible, flawless, like I have the perfect life.” Or saying that ” I don’t trust that you will be okay with my pain, maybe you will make fun of me or think I am weak or a loser or foolish.” Here is where a big problem comes in. Honesty. None of us are flawless, invincible and none of us have the perfect life. So in a way, we are lying. Hiding the truth. And in a sense, isolating ourselves. When we think that people will make fun of us or think that we are weak, losers or foolish, are we giving them the trust they deserve by assuming they will think of us this way? What are the reasons we hide our pain? Is it because we are taught that pain is an abnormal thing that we are to keep private? Are we under the belief that pain is not something we all go through? Are we under the impression that pain will make us weak or foolish? Maybe we are embarrassed, but what are the reasons that we are embarrassed? Did we do the unthinkable and actually make a mistake? (See this post I wrote on how mistakes are actually awesome!)
2 – Advice is offered, often something like “it will all be over soon” or “don’t feel bad” or “it’s okay” or my favorite, “Welcome to the club!”
When we offer this kind of advice we are hoping that we are being comforting or offering some kind of solution to the pain. But what we are really doing is rejecting the pain. We are saying that the person who is experiencing this pain shouldn’t be experiencing this pain. I think in a way, we are feeding the belief that it’s something that is abnormal or something that we should be ashamed of and keep private. When we tell our loved ones that it will all be over soon, how do we know that it will be for them? When we tell them not to feel that way, we are sending the message that their pain is incorrect – that is, we are trying to correct a behavior. When we say welcome to the club, it’s often perceived that the pain is insignificant and general and that takes away a bit of our individuality.
Don’t get me wrong, our intent is pure (for the most part) and all we really want to do is feel better and hope that with our good intended comforting words, that we make our loved ones feel better too.
I wish I could change everyone’s beliefs in that pain isn’t something to be embarrassed of and ashamed about. It’s a little weird that we all know that we all go through pain yet we still hide it, isolate ourselves, add to the pain by thinking that it’s abnormal, unjustify it, invalidate it, ignore it and run from it. We even lash out when we are in pain. We want to feel less alone so we try and hurt others so that they can hurt with us. Or we think that by hurting other people, we will somehow make ourselves hurt less.
Really I think we are looking for empathy and comfort so that we won’t feel like pain is abnormal, embarrassing or like we are weak or foolish. Emotion is one of those things that makes us human. Like opposable thumbs. But how come we don’t look at emotion, especially pain, like we do opposable thumbs or all the other things that make us humans like cooking food, our evolution, our lifestyles, or our ability to speak? It’s something we all have, but it’s something that we hide or try and make go away or address it like it’s something that is faulted and needs to be made better.
Well, that’s 1000 words that you can never unread! Please feel free to share this with your friends. Hopefully it will make it’s way around the world and I can change a few people’s minds about pain.
Note: I don’t have a solution for pain, I don’t have magic words that will make it all “go away” or make the “pain better” and I definitely can’t tell you how to “fix” it because I don’t think it should be. How can we measure happiness, pleasure, joy and positive without the pain? We have to experience pain, not only to contrast, but to grow, learn, be better and share.