#Askingforafriend: What is the purpose of pain?

By Lauren Dixon
GCU Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

Pain is arguably the most challenging emotion to experience or embrace.

We qualify our pain in numerous ways depending on the nuances of the moment: We feel sad, lonely, hurt, disappointed, devastated, lost or hopeless. We feel agony, despair or sorrow.

We experience pain when something we had has been lost and changes our way of functioning in the world.

When we lose a loved one, a relationship, a job, a role we’ve been used to playing, a dream or expectation, a useful or cherished possession, our health, our routines or even our ideologies, we are faced with the challenge of having to make an adjustment we didn’t want to make.  

In our efforts to resist pain, we often shift to other emotions that connect us to a greater sense of control (illusory as it may be).

We cling to our anger about all the external factors that should be different. Example: If you would just be more trustworthy, I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of not being able to trust you.

Or we reel in guilt about all of the ways we imagine we ought to have been able to control more than what’s really within our grasp. Example: If only I had been around to mediate my family’s arguments, I wouldn’t be feeling the pain of my family being upset and in conflict.

Even if we arrive at the conclusion that anger and guilt won’t resolve our pain, the next maneuver is often to try to bypass the feeling by “moving on” because we think, “What’s the point in feeling pain if I can’t do anything to change the situation that has caused it?”

It’s a good question. Consider the following response:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

I often think of physical pain as a helpful parallel to understanding the purpose of emotional pain. Imagine that you’ve just broken your leg. The pain you feel in response is an important alert that something has just happened. Your ability to function has just changed.

You may feel angry about whatever caused the injury, you may even feel guilty if you had some role in taking a risk that incurred the injury. But you’ll also likely go to the doctor and seek healing.

You’ll learn to care for your leg with extra protection (perhaps a cast) and extra rest (you’ll have to work out less vigorously and allow more time to get from one place to another). You’ll learn to adjust, to get around with the help of crutches or wheels.

And as your leg heals, you’ll strengthen it again over time until you can resume your previous level of functioning. You can’t change the broken leg, but you can change the way you function with a broken leg.

Pain invites us to acknowledge that we need extra care/support, comfort and rest than we did before our way of functioning changed. As we allow ourselves to slow down and take care, we then can start to explore new ways of functioning and of getting our needs met differently within our new/changed circumstances.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/