Here’s how to escape pain

Step one: Stop what you’re doing right now

About a week ago (week ago) I had a chat with some folk, which kind of turned into an impromptu intervention. When it was over, someone asked me why I didn’t say anything, since I have a background in psychology and still study it.

I said, “It wouldn’t have made a difference.”

I’m very used to giving people advice and them not taking it. I don’t mean this in a whiny why-won’t-they-listen-to-me kind of way. I, for one, am guilty of the same. People, by and large, do not listen to people who know better than they do.

Financial experts can tell you EXACTLY what to do to be prosperous, but you won’t do it. Relationship therapists can tell you EXACTLY what your relationship problems are, but you’ll ignore it. A cookbook can tell you EXACTLY how to prepare your meal, but you will do what you want to do.

And the only way you will listen is when your back is against the wall and you have only one option: Listen to the people you’ve been ignoring/seek help from those who have what you want. I raise my hand in testimony of this because this is me, and it might be you too.

For example, I have/had money problems. But because I was not too uncomfortable, I continued in my normal life and didn’t address the growing problem in the manner which I should’ve. Until it got horrendously bad.

Another example is when I lost a relationship and because I tethered happiness and that person together, I was in a whirlwind of pain. Luckily, a little voice told me where to go to get the answer I needed, and sure enough, I got the help and I’ve been getting better ever since.

People can cry, complain, moan, etc. but watch what happens when you give them a solution. Suddenly the problem isn’t that bad anymore. They can take care of it themselves. If you watch Bojack Horseman, you can see it in Bojack himself. There is knowledge that there’s a problem, but a fear in actually addressing it.

We’re afraid of what we’ll uncover. We think it’ll kill us, when the truth is, we’ll kill ourselves or end up killed because we aren’t dealing with our problems.

When we are suffering, we tend to do something that will alleviate the pain. We are always trying to do something to deal with our pain. We are truly proactive because suffering feels like crap and we want to feel good again.

However, the methods that we take are often escapes. In my humble opinion, there is only one path to healing, and that is through the emotion.

Let’s revisit the money problem. I get backed into a corner with regards to money and now have to fight my way out of it. The first thing I think of doing is to find a job. Makes a ton of sense, right? That should solve the problem, right?

Wrong.

While I do need money and a job is certainly one way to get money, we still didn’t actually address the entire problem. The problem is two-fold. Secondarily, I need to get money. Primarily, I need to go through the pain of not having money.

Now, I could get a job and alleviate my money troubles. However, I would still travel with the same fear of not having enough. And to be honest, I question if I would be able to improve my financial situation simply because if I’m mired in fear about money, chances are I’m going to do some stupid shit or be paralyzed.

It’s like they say, courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of it. But to act, you have to acknowledge that the fear is there. Denying it isn’t going to help you. Running away from it isn’t going to help you. The emotion is a message that something is off. In my case, it means “As an able-bodied and intelligent person, I should be able to provide for myself and pay for what I use. So to not have money is something I resent.”

Usually, when people try to change their circumstances, what they’re really doing is trying to change how they feel. But the truth is if they could feel calm, cool, collected and copacetic in the circumstance, they wouldn’t try to escape it so much or think more rationally on how to deal with the situation. And when you try to change what is because you hate how you’re feeling, you stay stuck in the emotion and probably the circumstance because what you resist, persists.

So yes, it is perfectly okay to try and change the circumstance but that is largely secondary to the primary problem which is how you feel about the circumstance. (I always feel like I’m going to be ridiculed for making such a point but I keep experiencing it as true.)

Relationships are the same. We need to feel the pain of yesteryear so that we aren’t trying to attach ourselves to people in order to fill the void caused by a lack of love and low self-worth. This one can be deceptively hard because we’ve lived with the pain for so long that if we aren’t in tune with our emotions, we will certainly just choose people who will trigger us like our caregivers did again and again and again.

So make sure you get into a relationship because you have the desire to feel connection, not because of the fear of loneliness or to plug a void or to increase feelings of self-worth and self-love.

Similarly, get money because you have been adding value to the lives of others, not because you’re food insecure or afraid of being destitute or being ridiculed or scared of being a burden on others.

And the only way to get these things and more is to address the suffering that prevent us from taking the healthy route and instead have us walking the paths that lead us to more suffering.

So how do we escape pain? We don’t. We welcome it, it tells us the thing it’s been trying to tell us so that we can move forward, and then it goes.