Jan 092012
Tears by Erickson Ocampo

This morning, a dear friend of mine returned to the States. I will probably not see her for some time and it causes me deep anguish. Separation from people you are close to is never easy. Yet pain is something we all have to deal with at one point or other in our lives. While pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The sooner we get through the healing process, the sooner we will be able to let go of our pain. Here are the steps that I took to manage my pain.

The Vizier on Dealing with Pain

1. Awareness

The first and crucial step to dealing with pain is awareness. Sometimes, you do not even realize the true depth of your pain until you face it. As I was working through my pain today, I realized that my friend’s departure was merely a trigger that set off a deeper and larger pain that I have kept buried deep inside me. I am aware of the existence of this larger pain. But as I am unable to do anything about it for the moment, I put it aside to focus on what I can do. Now I realize I have to periodically check and manage this pain before it grows too large.

If we allow our pain to overwhelm us, we simply cannot function. There are times when we have to set it aside to get on with living. Yet it is prudent to conduct regular checks to ensure all is well within. Without this awareness, you might not even realize the true depth of your pain until you face it. Pain can then easily accumulate and snowball if you do not remain vigilant.

2. Set Aside Enough Time to Focus on Healing

To do anything well you need to focus. It is no different with healing your pain. Initially, I intended to set aside half an hour to face my demons. That is the pretty way of putting it. In reality, it merely means that I take a waking nap to reflect on my pain. But as I realized the depth of my pain, I extended it to two hours instead. The result was worth my effort. I got up feeling my inner peace and composure restored. I now had the clarity of mind to turn my attention to more pressing matters.

How much time you will need to heal depends on a few factors. How severe your pain is. How effective your methods of healing are. And how much practice you have in managing your pain. In the past, I used to take weeks to recover. But today, with constant practice, I can bounce back in a day or two unless it is a devastating blow. The key is to take as much time as you need to make a full recovery.

3. Outlets for Pain

There are many outlets for pain. The safest ones for me are sleeping, talking, writing and tears. They all serve the same purpose, which is to get the pain out of me.

Pain uses up a lot of energy. When I brood, I tend to get tired quickly even though it seems as if I am not doing anything. Thus sleeping is a good outlet for me to recover my strength and to let go of my pain. But when I have these kinds of brooding naps, I do not really go to sleep. Rather, I close my eyes to reflect on and face my pain, taking as long as I need to let go.

Writing and talking brings the pain out into the open so that I can see it for what it really is. In the darkness of my mind, my pain and fear can grow to epic proportions far removed from reality. But when I bring my pain out into the open through writing or talking, it is not as bad as I imagine. I see it clearly for what it really is instead of magnifying it. Having someone there for support and comfort also helps in the healing.

Tears are also a good outlet to release pain. In the past, I felt that it was not macho to shed tears because guys have a certain image to maintain. As a result, it was hard for me to let my tears flow when I needed them to. The pain was there inside me like a raging storm but I just could not get it out.

Today, I have no trouble letting my tears flow if it is necessary. My secret is watching Korean romantic comedies because the characters are moving enough. But I tend to avoid Korean tragedies since that would be too much for me.

4. Surrender

To let go of pain, you must embrace and surrender yourself to it. When you have the courage to face your pain, it loses its hold over you. But if you keep running, your pain will always have the upper hand. Life does not reward half-hearted measures. It is the same with pain, you must go all the way and hit rock bottom as quickly as you can. From there, there is only one way out and that is up. This is how I bounce back quickly from my pain. Instead of weeks of running, I can now heal my pain in days by facing it.

5. Reframe Your Pain

Pain arises because of the way we choose to perceive an event. How we choose to see that event can cause us pain or empower us. I learned this important lesson from Viktor Frankl’s story about an old man who had lost his wife. This man visited Frankl, a prominent psychotherapist, in the hopes that he could find a cure for the pain of his loss.

Frankl was well aware of the advice he could give, but he knew it would do little good. Instead, he asked the man how his wife would have felt if she had lived and he had died instead. The man, who knew his wife well, realized that she would be in a great deal of pain. It was not something he would wish his wife to suffer. So instead of seeing his loss as a curse, he now saw it as a blessing. Because he lived, he spared his wife the pain of his passing. Seen in this light, he now had the courage to live out the remainder of his days as best as he could.

6. Repeat as Needed to Heal Fully

Today, it was sufficient for me to have a brooding nap to recover. But in the past, I had to use writing, talking, naps and tears to let go. Even then, it took time. It is hard to get over deep pain at once just as it is hard to change a bad habit. Sometimes you have to keep going through the process until you heal fully. So when it comes to pain, do not rush. Be gentle, take your time and repeat the process as often as you need. In the end, what matters is that you feel better.

Smile by Ricky David

Taking Action

What are your views on pain? What are your experiences with pain like? How do you manage your pain? Do share your thoughts and comments below! :)

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  27 Responses to “The Vizier on Dealing with Pain”

  1. Hi Irving,

    Great post and a timeless topic! Well, I believe that pain is inevitable, and it’s sure to happen in each of our lives. Whether great or small, physically or mentally; we can’t get away from having to deal with it, and avoiding or ignoring it, does more damage than people often think it does. The key is in our mindset and like you mentioned, how quickly we allow ourselves to heal from it.

    I tried many times to not face various painful situations that I’ve had to approach. The only thing that happened for me was that the pain actually got unbearable and begin to show up in other areas in my life and outwardly in the form of depression. The steps you shared here are absolutely point on in coming to grips with the pain we will face in life. But, different types of pain takes different times to heal for each of us. Some are able to move on rather quickly than others. However, the fact remains the quicker we cope, the better it is for us in the long run.

    For me, It wasn’t until I made up my mind to face those pains I was hiding from head on that I was able to move past them. I gave myself permission to acknowledge that I was hurting from them… I would feel, deal or cope with them for however long it took ( whatever it took meaning… cry, scream, write, whatever), and begin to let them go; only then was I able to move past them.

    Another awesome post though, my friend. Thank you for sharing this. :)
    Deeone recently posted..The Shocking Truth About Taking ChancesMy Profile

    • Hi Deeone,

      It is sad but true. Pain is a timeless topic because it is one of the things that human beings through the ages have to cope with.

      Clearly your experiences with pain are similar to mine. I certainly remember trying to avoid and run from my pain. But as we both know, that didn’t help. It just made things worse.

      Ay, different types of pain requires different approaches and lengths of time to heal. The key is not to rush the process which may force us to begin from square one again.

      I am glad you have learned through experience how to manage pain. This is one valuable lesson in life that we all need to master.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  2. Vizier – a moving take on pain – thanks for the honesty. Here’s the pain-o-meter test – how often do you cry during a Bollywood movie?

    I find that wanting to hold on to permanence causes a lot of pain! Change causes a lotttt of pain! We want to hold onto things or expect things or people to be a certain way. So we suffer. If we can only come to see that suffering is optional like you and the Buddha point out. Your tips above are all a good start.

    • Hi Vishnu,

      Hmm, I haven’t really watched that many Bollywood movies. I remember watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai years ago. The reason I can remember it is because I was traumatized by it haha! But back then I couldn’t manage my emotions well. Even so, I won’t want to watch it again because it is too sad for me.

      Recent Bollywood movies I have watched are Jodhaa Akbar and 3 Idiots. I think I shed a tear or two during Jodhaa Akbar. 3 Idiots definitely had more moving scenes but it wasn’t overly sad. I guess I would probably fare badly on the pain-o-meter eh? Haha!

      Yeap, attachment causes a lot of pain. But not having any attachments is difficult. The key is to be able to have attachments and yet rise above the pain. That is true mastery. And I know I have a long way to go.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  3. If we will not let go of the pain that we feel, it may take over our life and control us. Sad, but that’s true. We may experience something very painful in our life a feeling like we cannot escape it. The truth is there is something we can do about it and they are mentioned in this post. Glad I’ve seen this valuable post.
    Candice Michelle recently posted..CZ 858My Profile

  4. Hi Irving, Indeed I’ve dealt with my fair share of pain over the years. I’ve learned that just asking healthy questions can give me fresh energy. In the past, I’d assume the pathetic role of helpless victim; I’d wail out, “WOE is me!” Then, I’d stand there and endure the emotional pain I’d inflicted on myself. Once I understood the foolish steps I’d take to build a prison in my mind and jail myself, I could see how the whole thing was a slick trick that I played on myself; there was no intelligence in any of it.
    rob white recently posted..The Ego Is Made of FearMy Profile

    • Hi Rob,

      We all have had our fair share of pain in life haven’t we? But as you rightly point out, it is a matter of perspective. An empowering perspective will help us to master our pain while a crippling perspective will make us its slave.

      I remember the “WOE is me” routine. I used to do it too.

      I guess it is all a necessary part of the learning process to manage our pain better. What matters is knowing the best way to do so that is unique to us and the particular pain we are facing.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  5. Hey Irving, first of all, I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this now (but glad you’re dealing with it in a healthy way). We all have to experience separation at times, but it’s never easy, and it’s never fun.

    I think you’re spot on with reminding us to actually let ourselves deal with the pain that comes from loss, failure, etc. It’s okay to be sad. It’s healthy. Sadness is a human emotion and as long as we’re not controlled by it, it’s good for us to experience it. It helps us understand the value that person brings into our lives.

    I love your admonition to give yourself time to heal. Most of the time, we’re so accustomed to trying to move on that we actually do more damage to ourselves.

    I wish you a speedy (but healthy) emotional recovery, my friend.
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..Your Biggest Dreams Will Stay Unreachable Until You Do This ONE ThingMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      Separations and reunions are part of life. But thank you for your encouragement. :)

      Facing our pain is indeed a vital part of the healing process. You cannot move on until you deal with your pain. There are times when sadness is called for. As you rightly point out, sadness is a human emotion and it reminds us of who is important in our lives. It is how we manage sadness that truly matters.

      Taking the necessary amount of time to heal is key. After learning this lesson well, I managed to cut down the time I actually needed to recover from my pain. No more prolonged half-hearted approaches. In fact, I am pretty much ok now. I had to be ok to write the article if not I would have taken another day off to heal haha!

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments and for your encouragement! I appreciate it! :)

  6. Pain… yes, it can take over one’s life. Yes, it drains the energy out of you. I also agree with the need to be aware… and to accept its presence. Jon Kabat Zinn speaks of ‘embracing’ it, and looking at it in a non subjective light. It is there… accept it and find ways to let it be, set it aside as you said. I have a physical pain and I use imagery which I learned through Kabat Zinn, of enveloping the area of pain with a healing ‘cloud’ by means of deep breathing. A variation of this is also taught by Ann Marie Chiasson, MD.

    Mental pain… yes, writing, music, for me… gardening or going to the beach and letting the waves wash the pain away. I have always lived near the water and even the sound of the waves on a CD helps me calm my mind.

    Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way. Thank you for your openness on this very private subject.
    Barbara recently posted..A new year is coming….My Profile

    • Hi Barbara,

      Embracing pain is not always easy, but it is something we have to try to do to let go of it. I like the processes you have listed to manage your pain. It is all very soothing and natural. Having ways to deal with pain is important in life. Otherwise, it will cripple us.

      I hope all is going well for you thus far in the year. :)

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  7. Hi Irving,

    First, so sorry about you losing the closeness of your friend. I could say all kinds of comforting things but I’m sure you know them already. Our hearts still ache though so I guess I’m talking to your heart. :-)

    You really covered a lot of bases here; what an excellent article. I’m not one to shy away from pain at all since I learned what happens if I try to ignore it. I think I use all your methods/steps you list here.

    When it comes to big, deep pain, I find that your step “Repeat as needed …” is most important. Yet it’s the one that puzzles me the most even though as I think about it right now, maybe I’ve had the wrong perspective on it!

    I assume that because I process it, it should go away, right? But no matter how much processing I do (even hours or days, even repeated cycles of processing), some pains — even though they subside and I get on with my life — end up showing up again after some time (e.g. 7 months, a year, 3 years). They usually have a slightly different face and I know it’s the same cause but my feelings and thoughts about it are slightly different. I think this shows that processing has been continuing unbeknownst to me.

    But I realize as I write that maybe that’s just okay. Maybe the goal isn’t to have them go away completely. Maybe it’s okay to have them visit now and then as part of my life. I don’t know … I’ll have to mull that one over.

    Thanks so much for this post. Now to see if the realization it prompted in me holds water.
    Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being recently posted..Ask Any Question and Watch the Answer Reveal ItselfMy Profile

    • Hi Patti,

      Partings and reunions are part and parcel of life. But thank you for empathizing, it is still not easy to deal with.

      I know what you mean about pain subsiding only to resurface years later. Some pain is so deep we might have to deal with it in stages. You see it all the time in books and movies. A character faces so much pain he buries it deep inside it and literally forgets about it. Only when he is ready for it does he deal with the pain at a later date.

      Maybe we can only deal with so much pain at a time. So it is ok if it shows up later. It is just a matter of continuing the process as needed.

      I hope you will be better able to manage your recurring pain. I certainly have to deal with mine.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  8. Tears. Even though I’m a woman, crying is not easy for me. When my mom died and I felt like I had so much crying bottled up inside me, I would watch heart warming shows on TV that would loosen me up and get the tears flowing. Seems silly that I could cry over Little House on the Prarie, and not my mom, but that’s how it worked.

    I especially liked the way you described reframing the pain and the example you gave of the man whose wife died. That was a powerful example. I’m going to explore this technique more and see what I can do with it.

    Thanks for a great article.
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Quick Tech QuestionMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      Your pain over your mom’s death must have been so great that your body “shut it down” to protect you from your grief. That is probably why you found it hard to cry for her. The good thing is that you knew the trigger to press to open the floodgates. It doesn’t matter if it is Little House on the Prairie, what matters it that it helped you to manage your pain. Goodness knows the kind of melodramatic shows I shed tears over haha!

      Yes. That story that Viktor Frankl shared is very important to me. He was one of the core influences in my life during my spiritual journey of self-discovery.

      I hope you will be able to use the technique well. I have used it many times to get through incredible amounts of pain that would have floored me in the past. So that says something about its effectiveness.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  9. This article is so deeply touching… Still unable to heel and recover you can imagine my emotions reading this…And I can’t just miss the photos …wordless
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  10. Lovely post Vizier.

    It reminded me of some years back when I was really struggling with stuttering. I was paralyzed by so much fear, I would just do anything to get out going into speaking situations. I was in serious pain. But as I began to develop wisdom into what was happening inside me, and just observed the pain, I began to learn to dis-identify with it and see beyond it. I’m continuing on this journey…

    • Hi Hiten,

      Stuttering is a nasty fear to deal with. I can imagine the pain it must have caused you and what you had to go through. It cannot have been easy.

      I am glad that you manage to find ways and means to overcome it. This is certainly not something you can just put behind you in an instant. What matters is that you never give up on this journey.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  11. Irving,

    This is a thorough treatment of emotional pain. I have found this too: “As I was working through my pain today, I realized that my friend’s departure was merely a trigger that set off a deeper and larger pain that I have kept buried deep inside me.”

    I’ve been through a painful period of late and I have also found that the best approach is a willing to open to the pain judiciously although it doesn’t help to allow it to overwhelm you. I find my willingness to be with and look at the pain, allows it to dissolve more easily. All the approaches you recommend here are excellent. This is no easy task, but the only way to the other side is to go through.

    I loved the Victor Frankl story. It’s a great example of reframing!
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..Rise and Shine!My Profile

    • Hi Sandra,

      Ah what pain each of us carry deep inside us. If there was a way to measure the pain in this world, I am sure the readings would be off the charts.

      Yes, great pain should be dealt with in parts. Otherwise it will be too much for you and it could cripple you emotionally. Our minds and bodies can only take so much at a time. If we push too hard, it will result in a shut down anyway. Better to manage pain bit by bit. Then we will keep on moving forward instead of stagnating.

      As you rightly point out, the only way to the other side is to go through. It is understandable why many of us hesitate because to go through is to go through possible hell. Still, do know you are not alone. I will always be ready and willing to offer what little help and comfort that I can.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  12. Such a honest and touching text…thanks for sharing this. I think everyone manages the own pain in an other way.And it depends on the art of the pain, too. I specially always try to focus on an other thing, until the intensity of the pain gets lower.
    Catwoman recently posted..fogfehérítésMy Profile

    • Hi Catwoman,

      Yes, we all manage pain in our own ways. What works for one may not work for another. At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is an effective way of managing our pain.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  13. I never afraid to feel the pain in different ways, Because for me its the main reason why i get strong and stand for any situation.
    Wenz28 recently posted..glovesMy Profile

    • Hi Wenz28,

      I am glad you have the courage to face your pain.

      It does indeed give us the capacity and the strength to face any situation.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

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