pain + healing

pain + healing

The other day I spoke to someone who is on a recovery path after some health issues and he was telling me that he is experiencing pain in his fingers as his nerves regenerate. It made me think about how often it is the case that on the road to healing, we experience pain.

Healing is a really natural response in our bodies. Our bodies want to and are geared to heal. Our immunity works to heal. Aren’t we all constantly, regenerating, growing, adapting and healing? At sleep don’t we heal? We find ways to restore our energy, relax our bodies; but aren’t what we really doing is just plain old healing?
Pain is, well, painful. It feels like such a human rational and automatic thing to want to avoid pain and do everything we can to stay out of its way. I think I have a low threshold for pain. The last time I had a fever, my friend, tracing back to her Lebanese peasant-girl roots, attacked (ok maybe just gently dabbed) me with a vinegar-soaked tea towel. It felt like sharp cold daggers and hurt like hell. I yelled and threw every expletive I could think of at her. But sure enough an hour or so later the fever had broken and I was feeling a thousand times better. And although I know this works and even personally experienced it (and survived to tell the tale); I am certain that the next time I get a fever I am going to try and do everything I can to stop her coming anywhere near me.
Emotionally, too, when we heal our hurts and losses, don’t we have to go through the pain (the complete feeling, whatever it is) in order to get through to the other side? It’s tempting and enticing and we all try everything else we can think of rather than go into that feeling. I do it all the time. I convince myself that I am really ok, over it, have forgiven myself, forgotten all about whatever it is and accepted it fully.  But this just doesn’t seem to work. It’s not until I’ve fully experienced the full depths of the feeling that I can really feel a change, a letting go, some relief and some healing.
So we experience pain to heal but we want to and instinctively avoid it as much as we can. Doesn’t this seem contrary to you? Is pain as bad as what we think it is? Is it just a judgement or a label on a feeling? When the same vinegar-toting friend was getting ready to have her baby, someone told her to rename the sensation she would feel, “a pressure”, not a pain. To tell her brain that the sensation is ok, and not something that she needs to avoid. I think in the delivery room the renaming of the sensation didn’t really matter because she was just intent on getting that baby out, healthy, strong and as quickly as possible.
So maybe it comes down to intention. Being clear with yourself about your intention and desire to heal, whatever needs to be healed. And having an intention to allow your body, heart and spirit to do what they need to do. With the intention seems to come two things. Firstly, a trust that you definitely can heal, you completely have the ability and everything you need to heal and trusting that you have the instinct to know who you need to turn to for help with your healing. And then secondly you need to learn to get out of your own way. With this comes awareness, of why and how we might act in ways that stop the healing process from happening.
Sometimes I think the resistance to heal, comes from the judgements that we have. I find my self-anger sky-rockets whenever I have a sore knee or shoulder and I need to rest. Or if I am experiencing a difficult feeling, all around it and on top of it, is an intense self-judgement and self-criticism. It’s hard to allow healing from that place. I think my judgement is that it’s fundamentally weak to need to heal. We shouldn’t be in whatever position we are in because it’s not a strong one. We don’t feel strong at all in those moments; but rather, vulnerable and needy and tender.
But I know, you know, we all know; real strength isn’t about never being hurt or sore.  Strength is about how we get through the difficulty we face and come through the other side. How we get through the things life throws at us; how we meet our resistance and how we learn to heal. Because on a grand scale, maybe our whole purpose here is to heal? Isn’t love, in all its complexities and wonder, essentially and inherently, healing?