A Crash Course in Handling Pain – Part 2: Numbing and Avoiding Pain

If you’re not much into reading but prefer to listen/watch, here’s a 38min message on a similar topic from Brian Johnson.

Here’s Part 1 if you missed it

Numbing and Avoiding Pain

Numbing pain seems like a rational, logical thing to do, I mean most of us don’t like physical pain. Most. We dodge it and lessen it wherever we can. If someone threatens us with pain we’ll probably do what they want. Nobody rolls up at the dentist shouting “No anaesthetic for me thanks! Let’s go au naturale!” If you’ve ever had major surgery or maybe even given birth you’re probably in love with your anaesthetist! Today we’re even able to medicate natural bodily occurrences of pain and I’m sure a lot of us are grateful for that too.

Sadly we often try to take the same approach towards our emotional pain. This is when the pain is so unbearable or has been flesh woundso prolonged that we find ways to remove it from ourselves or to remove ourselves from it. We do this with a variety of different tools, most of which are actually really bad for us in the long run and distort our relationships with other people. We can inject a tonne of busyness into our lives to make sure we never have a moment to ourselves to feel the pain. Some of us have enough will power to just decide to stop an emotion’s access to us and we shut our hearts down in the process. Sometimes we numb the pain by first indulging in it until it so overwhelms us, it becomes part of us and so we can’t feel it any more. Maybe we put up a rough, tough exterior to prevent people getting close enough to hurt us emotionally until eventually that rough exterior becomes our new identity because it’s so familiar. We become the bully, the driven business person, the hard-working athlete or even the short-tempered parent. We try to use the pain as a weapon and claim it’s made us “stronger” but actually we’ve just become callous and numb which is not an advantage. Maybe we dress ourselves up as the always happy party guy, the super-positive religious girl or the carefree musician trying to turn our pain into art. Whatever the mask, we use it to hide our pain from others and from ourselves.

Sometimes we numb the pain by first indulging in it until it so overwhelms us, it becomes part of us and so we can’t feel it any more.”

Often we medicate it with other stuff, sex, drugs, music, work, money, video games or some other hobby. This is incredibly dangerous because numbing pain does not mean that it is absent or that it has been dealt with. If you’ve done this yourself you might have experienced moments when your pain substitute is removed and the pain comes back with a vengeance! You then grope madly for the nearest painkiller! We can make ourselves cold and indifferent but the trouble is, it seems like it’s near-impossible for us to reverse that on our own. The wounds to our heart are real and they need to be dealt with in a real way not avoided, ignored or numbed.

The-Guarded-HeartSo what do we do? Indulging in pain and befriending it is a terrible idea. Ignoring it is too. So what? Pain has to be
dealt with and it has to be acknowledged. We have to say “yes it hurt and yes it was wrong.” We accept that a wound was indeed inflicted so that we can really assess the damage. Inspecting the wound can show us why it hurt in the first place and maybe reveal something about ourselves that we didn’t know. You learn a lot about yourself when you find out what hurts you. It’s no coincidence that we often get hurt the same way over and over. I often find that if I get hurt by someone emotionally and I actually check myself I find an area of particular sensitivity. Once I know this is there I can take more care around it and get it healed maybe by letting close friends know that that is not a strong area for me. We can often (especially Christians) acknowledge we were hurt and then pretend to be over it because that’s what we’re “supposed to do”. Let’s be real people and have real relationships. Healing takes time and that’s okay. Some heal faster/slower than others and that’s okay. We need to give each other permission to be a mess and not have it altogether while being committed to helping each on the journey. From this point we can begin the healing process which starts with Forgiveness.

“You learn a lot about yourself when you find out what hurts you.”

Onwards to Part 3!

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