Don’t be a captive of pain and hurts-
Forgive. Part 1
We have, or will all experience shattering times or violations in our lives that wound us deeply. To quote Thomas Chandler Halliburton, “The memory of past favors is like a rainbow – bright, vivid, and beautiful; but it soon fades away. The memory of injuries is engraved on the heart, and remains forever.” Pain is unavoidable; no one escapes life without suffering it. What’s important is how we deal with those events. Feelings are meant to be felt. The fastest way through suffering is to allow and trust the process.
So, why is it so hard to let go of our hurt? Pain comes in waves; it is part of the cycle of life. The problem arises when we find ourselves stuck in our pain. We may feel heavy-hearted, close ourselves off, constantly be on guard, or resentful.
There is a wellspring of possible causes for our torment. We are all unique and each of us reacts differently. Often the unresolved pain that we suffer as adults is deeply ingrained in us because it stems from childhood wounds.
Coping skills are not innate; they are a learned behavior. If we are lucky we learn healthy ones from our parents or guardians who model the proper behavior for us. But what if they never developed those skills themselves? Who do we learn from? I came from a home of chaos and confusion. The word cope was not in our dictionary – Words like anger, anxiety, denial, depression, blame, and victimization were. Learning to cope was an uphill battle for me, filled with trial and error…mostly error.
Without healthy coping skills, just as we often do with physical pain or injuries, when emotional pain hurts too much to comfortably feel, our instincts tell us to hide it, cover it with a bandage, or take a substance to relieve it. These are not coping skills; they are temporary fixes, makeshift survival skills. We begin a pattern of building walls, running and hiding from pain, and stuffing it…doing anything we can to avoid facing our problems and dealing with them. We put off something that we will inevitably have to deal with later. We may adopt a victim mentality; fail to understand why we should take responsibility for something we did not create or cause. These unhealthy coping skills become the armor we wear to safeguard our feelings. It becomes the only way we know how to hold ourselves together enough to navigate our way through life.
What are some of the ways we block our pain, and what happens when we do? Without realizing it, in our suffering, we exert a tremendous amount of energy trying to push the pain away. Life gets away from us. To quote Michael Cibenko, “One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us.” Holding on to deadened pain will make this challenging journey through life much more difficult.
There are many things we do, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, to numb our pain. We may deny it; if we believe it didn’t happen, it didn’t. We may keep ourselves so busy that we never have time alone to think. We may drown our sorrows in drugs or alcohol, or sleep excessively – shop, work, eat, exercise, or gamble compulsively – become addicted to sex, pornography, cyber chatting, or games – talk compulsively – and as I did, with choosing to associate with problematic people, taking on the troubling issues of friends, and immersing myself as a codependent in addictive relationships, we may enmesh ourselves into other’s lives to redirect our focus.
We may stop pursuing new things or relationships to avoid being hurt, believing that it will protect us from failure, heartache, and rejection. Using deflective or avoiding behaviors to prevent ourselves from facing our deeper issues may allow us to hold it together for a while, but not forever. We believe that we are controlling the pain, but the more we suppress it, the more it begins to control us. The less we allow ourselves to feel, the less alive we will feel. The hurts we hold onto are like dams that block the free flow of our energy. And we can only suppress, mask, or numb our pain for so long before it starts seeping through the cracks in ways we don’t intend. What those of us who harbor pain or are paralyzed by it fail to see, is that by clinging to the pain, we are hurting ourselves more. Learning to let go of painful emotions is very difficult. For one thing, after having backlogged the associated feelings for so long, we’ve conditioned ourselves to fear feeling them. We’ve built walls around ourselves to protect our emotions. When I eventually sought professional therapy, I learned that it was healthy to have walls, or a better term is “boundaries,” but that the height of our walls should self-adjust according to life’s situations. The wall I had built starting in childhood only functioned two ways…all the way up, or all the way down. I was either entirely closed off, or dangerously open and vulnerable. That is why life was so painful for me. I couldn’t regulate my responses in a healthy way. As a person I went through so many painful l experiences in life and only recently I began opening up and it has been of great help to me, yes Herbert Mtowo, going through difficult experiences in childhood and issues of growth. Sometimes the pain is so dense and heaped so high inside of us; we have to peel it away, layer by layer in order to heal. The anger and resentment sometimes associated with our pain may eventually turn to bitterness. For some, these bitter feelings may provide a
self-righteous rationale to take a victim stance to embrace and justify their hurt. Letting go means releasing our clutch, removing our suit of armor, giving up something that has become an integral part of us…Taking off the badge we proudly wear that says, “I am hurt and entitled to it.” This requires a conscious effort that takes time, focus, patience, and practice. It means changing our patterns, redefining our identity. It is scary to imagine ourselves without the wounds we have integrated into our being for so long. Who will we be without them? Strange as it may seem, there is a sense of comfort in holding on to those negative feelings. A great line from the television show, The Wonder Years, says it well: “Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let it go.”
Don’t be a captive of pain and hurts-