The Positive of Painful Experiences
What is pain? Pain is defined a mental, physical, or emotional suffering in the dictionary.
A lot of us tend to see pain as a negative experience and it is our desire to avoid pain as much as possible, and understandably so. But unfortunately, pain is an inevitable consequence of life and we have to deal with whether we like it or not. When it eventually befalls us, we should try as much as possible to turn it into a positive experience. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Understanding the positive aspects of experiencing pain can help us do this better.
‘Feel the pain till it hurts no more.’ – Shakespeare
You may be wondering, what is so positive about pain? What is he talking about?
Well for one, there is strength that you gain from pain once it has subsided. Once the initial shock of the pain has passed you are able to see what you have learned from it and how it has made you a more resilient individual. For example, when you have fallen sick don’t your eyes suddenly open up to all the blessings you have before you? Don’t you suddenly realize what all the important things in life are?
That was just but an example of how pain can have a positive result. Physical pain, however, can always go away, unlike emotional/mental pain, which may linger for a lifetime if not handled correctly. One way to handle this kind of pain is to change your perspective of it. Emotional/mental pain has the capacity to wear you down because your mind controls everything that you do.
‘I think therefore I am.’ – Rene Descartes
Your thoughts have the capacity to put you in a prison and incapacitate you. Although this may sound extreme, I think it is necessary for any person’s growth, that the they hit rock bottom, whatever that is to them, in order to become as strong as they can possibly be… in order to find out what they are really made of.
Pain can teach you a lot, it even makes you understand what happiness is and not to take it for granted.
‘Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t pain.’ – Curtis Jackson
The purpose of this article is not to tell you to encourage pain or go about looking for it… the purpose of the article is to bring you to the realization that pain is inevitable and that you are better off learning how to perceive it better instead of letting it overwhelm you. Instead of letting pain consumer you and destroy you, you should learn how to let it change you for the better and make you a better person.
6 KEY WAYS PAIN CAN MOLD YOU
Every time we encounter pain, we carry with us a memory of the experience. These memories in turn act as lessons that enable us to better handle any similar occurrences in the future.
We are able to apply what we have learned in the future. So what effects do these lessons really have on you? How do they better position you for the future?
Pain makes you Stronger
We mentioned in the introduction that pain helps make us stronger. The hard lessons you learn from pain help shape you into a better person. Pain shapes your character, like molten iron at the hands of the smelter.
‘When He has tested me I shall come forth as gold.’ – Job 23:10 New Improved Version Bible
Whether you are Christian or not, the above statement shows you that past thinkers also came to the same conclusion; that pain leaves you better and stronger than it found you.
When you endure and survive painful events, in all probability the inevitable painful experiences of the future will be a breeze and you will approach them much more boldly than you initially had.
Pain teaches you Humility
The painful experiences you encounter in the course of your life are a reminder of how bad things can get, especially when you hit rock bottom. Pain wards off pride… and we all know pride comes before a fall.
Human beings have a habit of always wanting to feel special, like their own life somehow has more meaning than that of others, but when you have experienced pain you understand that we all face the same fears, fight the same fights, suffer the same pains, were all in this great war together… life.
This awareness keeps you centered, humble, and even empathetic to the pains of other people. This new found humility enables you to keep away from situations based solely on your pride because you understand that, that same pride will lead you into circumstances that will cause you or someone else pain. We understand that pride is a dangerous, unnecessary, and expensive trait and that humility is much more gracious.
‘You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake, we are all part of the same compost heap.’ – Tyler Durden. Fight Club, 1999.
Pain teaches you Empathy
Pain gives us a greater capacity for compassion, love, and empathy. Pain brings you closer to others because you can empathize with what another person is feeling when they are in distress. Experiencing pain brings us to the awareness that we are not exempt to it and it is what will drive you to give some of your money to that beggar on the side walk or to that singer by the corner. You realize that, that could be you and that there is really no special reason you have been exempted from another person’s misfortune.
Similarly, the pain that we have experienced gives us a unique understanding and wisdom that enables us to help other people cope with their own pain. The people who give the best advice have gone through the worst.
A simple ‘I understand you’, ‘I feel you’, or ‘I understand how you feel’ doesn’t cut it. Because you cannot really understand how a person in pain feels unless you have experienced the same kind of pain. For example, if you have ever lost a loved one you would be able to give a friend who’s going through the same support that goes beyond repeating empty phrases and clichés.
Pain Positions us for Success
The strength and resilience that results from pain is a big contributing factor to your future success. You have been through hell and back, what is a simple job application rejection? What is a minor failed investment?
That is what pain does to you; it leaves you tougher and ready to face any challenge. It proves to you that you can overcome just about any obstacle. You are no longer fragile, you don’t just give up, and that kind of persistence leads you to success eventually.
On the path towards success, there will be many obstacles and there are many factors that will make you stronger than you are now, but one of the biggest factors is pain.
Pain Builds Character
We all have a character; it may not be what we would like it to be yet… or maybe it could be, it depends on the individual. Regardless, pain tests your character and demonstrates to you either that your character is developed or that it could use a little bit of work. Learn to view any pain that comes your way as a test of your character and even if you fail the test you can always use that lesson as a to improve your character.
Pain also serves as an indicator of your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you find yourself getting insanely angry when you are losing a debate with a friend, it may be an indicator that you need to sharpen your communication skills or expand your knowledge. Alternatively, the lesson could be that you are a person of conviction and values, which is a positive trait in most cases.
Pain gives you self-knowledge and self-awareness that brings you to your own attention, highlighting traits in you that need some improvement, promoting profound inner growth. Life is a series of tests and every time you get an opportunity to improve on your character and ready yourself for the next test, that’s a positive experience.
Pain makes you Adaptable
I’m sure you will agree that life is quite unpredictable for any rigid plans right?
When you have experienced pain, for example, the pain of failure, you stop predicting things will go exactly as expected and learn to readjust your plans and strategies when things go ‘wrong’ as opposed to getting discouraged because they didn’t work out how you had planned them to.
In fact, sometimes things will often work out even better when you are forced to readjust your plans, you learn that the gifts that life hands us are not always wrapped how you would expect them to be. With such as positive attitude you begin to perceive life’s unpredictability as interesting and spontaneous rather than inhibiting, you become an expert at readjusting in any situation and making the best out of it.
I won’t sit here and try to convince you that if things don’t work out they just ‘weren’t meant to be’ because I don’t believe in destiny or fate.
What I do believe in, however, is that if you really want something you should fight for it, you should have a plan and if in any case your initial plan is compromised, then adapt, re-strategize… find another route to reach your intended destination. Painful experiences will instill in you the ability to adapt when things don’t go exactly according to plan and to me, this is a very strong quality to possess because it keeps hope alive, you will never despair, you will truly be defeated.
THE POSITIVE OF PAINFUL EXPERIENCES: THE CONSEQUENCE OF PAIN
Going through pain is frightening. But remember, you are far more capable, far stronger than you give yourself credit for.
All through history, people have faced adversity and come out victorious but only because they faced up to the pain and if you choose to do the same you will be surprised when you come out on top.
You become more Independent
No one in this world can truly say that they know what it’s like to be you or to walk in your shoes and when you are facing adversity, they understand you even less. Sure, your closest friends and family might offer you support but only you have to live in your mind so pain is a journey you have to brave alone.
Pain forces you to dig deep inside you to find your true strength and push through the storm when all you feel like doing is sitting alone in a dark corner. Pain shows you that only you truly have the power to make the choices of your life and this makes you more self-aware, more self-confident, and more self-reliant.
When you have had enough practice leveraging and learning from your pain you become confident that you can always bounce back from adversity so you aren’t afraid to take any risk in the pursuit of success/happiness. Pain is a necessity for growth, expansion, and resilience.
Your Path becomes Clear
Nothing opens your eyes to what is truly important than painful experiences. For example, if you have just gotten fired it might dawn on you that the reason you couldn’t keep up with the demands the job was because it wasn’t fulfilling for you and that your passion actually lies elsewhere. So losing your job in this case actually gives you the perfect opportunity to pursue your passion, after all, what else is there to lose?
Or if you have just come from a failed relationship it might just hit you that you had been entertaining an emotionally abusive partner the whole while, which really clarifies what kind of traits you want in a partner and which ones you do not in the future.
So this loss wasn’t really a loss was it? Major setbacks are sometimes the first step to something much better, so always keep your mind and heart open during painful times and ask yourself; what can you learn from this? How can this make you better for the future?
Pain triggers evolution if you choose to face it head on. Human beings are wired to adapt, survive, and improve themselves and their situations, that’s why there has been extensive technological advancements over the past 200 years, we strive to create solutions for problems… build bridges where there were none and make our lives easier in any possible way.
But beware, your brilliant mind is a double edged sword; it could imprison you if you believe that your pain has you defeated. Learn to use your discomfort to motivate you to overcome obstacles and watch yourself come out a better, more self-aware person.
You become Resilient to Stress
The more pain you face head on and get through with a positive lesson in hand, the better equipped you are to face future challenges and stress. Resilience is bolstered by the knowledge that you’ve been through adversity before and you got through it, its encouraged by the awareness that even if you are in pain now it is only serving to make you stronger for tomorrow.
When you have gone through a painful experience, you can either choose to let the experience paralyze you, stress you, and make you anxious or you could use that pain to propel you. Make the latter choice and you will find yourself going through stressful situations with ease.
‘The only easy day was yesterday.’ – Navy Seal Slogan
You Find Out who your True Friends Are
I guarantee that some people you consider close friends will not be there for you when you need them the most and pain acts as a perfect storm in which you distinguish who will always be there and who would abandon you in your time of need.
Those who belong in your life are those who will hold your hand quietly through your pain. Very bluntly, those that don’t stand by you in your pain are not meant to be in your life, keep those who do close and cherish them.
It’s an unfortunate and even painful realization, but at the end of the day it’s just how it is. Being there for someone in their time of need does not take much, even a simple phone call, or just being physically present, even without saying a word, can be enough. So if someone wanted to be there, they would be.
‘Stop crossing Oceans for People who won’t jump a puddle for you.’ – Unknown
Emotion, whether painful or not, is a part of being human. Every time we feel, we are experience life’s energy move through us.
If you lost the ability to feel, would you even be a person/human? What would be the difference between you and the machines? Would you even be aware of our own consciousness? Wouldn’t we be despondent and empty? Feeling means you’re alive!
‘Without personality we are only biological robots’ – Unknown
I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. What do you want to hear first?
The bad news is; pain is unavoidable, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. The good news is; there are numerous lessons you can learn from pain. The most important of these is that there is always a lesson to be learned from pain in the first place.
Pain can be terrifying and I won’t claim to be immune to that fear just because I’m the one dishing out the advice. But here’s how I see it; is the fear that results from painful experiences more powerful than the fear of failure? The fear of a life half-lived? The fear of a life wasted because you allowed some experiences to paralyze you and rob you of any potential that you had? I think not.
Do not focus so much on the pain you are feeling in the moment, it will suck you in and trap you. Instead, seek out the lesson from each painful experience, keep your heart and mind open, and choose to use adversity to fuel the fire inside you instead of snuffing it out.
‘And if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.’ – Friedrich Nietzsche
Also, the more we are exposed to pain, whether in the form of anger, shame, betrayal, failure… the more we get to appreciate the enjoyable emotions such as love, hope, compassion, kindness, joy… This is the contrast of nature; without darkness we would never appreciate the light. Pain serves to enrich our positive experiences and as much as we have a capacity to feel pain we have a capacity to feel joy in equal measure.
Every experience is necessary. The purpose of life is to live it to the fullest, to reach out to the world with open arms and brave it all, the pleasant and the not so pleasant… And if you are seeking success, if you have a dream or a goal, there are no shortcuts, you will have to go through unpleasant experiences but if you are to reach your destination you have to live by the code ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, you cannot stop, you have to power through it and eventually, victory will be yours.
The usefulness of pain can be a little difficult to come to grips with, especially when you are going through it in the moment. But when you will yourself to surface from it you will be stronger, wiser, and ultimately a better person all around. It is a rare occurrence that a painful experience will have no lesson to teach you. Almost all painful experiences teach you something about yourself, the world around you, and how you can live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Don’t you think it’s better to look back on life and say, ‘How did I get through that, I’m glad I tried’ instead of ‘I wish I had tried’ or ‘What if I had chosen to look at it differently?’Don’t get to the end of your life and wonder why you didn’t change a perspective you have the chance to change now, or learn a lesson you have a chance to learn now, or to adopt a perspective that would have made the outcome of your life very different. Take the risk… Feel passion… Feel pain… Feel joy… go through it all and make the most of every situation even the unpleasant. Live life…Run free.
“Never give in; never give in, never, never, never, never give in. Nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill
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