There are seven little words above that seem so easy to write down or to throw out there to someone who is feeling pain. It is the remaining two words: “How to” which are elusive and difficult to grasp.
Pain by its nature is tough (An understatement you might say) whatever its source, it takes root, it grows, it changes, it distorts. We don’t always understand it but we react. We bleed emotionally and we can’t always have the right bandages and tools to make it ok. Pain is as unique as the individual experiencing it.
The role of self-healing
So how do we move past it? There comes a point when defences aren’t enough. Pain is real and it’s here NOW. It’s taking over, perhaps you can’t remember what it feels like to be the real you? When we lose ourselves we also lose our ability to keep moving forward, fulfilling our potential.
For me, this point came after a severe illness. To be honest I was fed up hearing about me, people’s reactions and sympathy. I felt defined by the illness, as if this was all I could be: a survivor with pain. I don’t remember the exact moment this changed, it was subtle and tentative. I just knew I could be something more and I was in control again.
On reflection I believe self- healing begins with a conscious acknowledgement that personal pain exists; I’m hurting and I need this to be better. If you can recognise this, it’s a very good place to start. The why and how might be too scary to contemplate immediately but it is a first step towards making a difference.
The second step could be as diverse as making a doctor’s appointment, talking to a great friend, distancing yourself from negativity, time out from work, making a big decision or asking for some help when you are overwhelmed. The greatest gift you can give yourself right now is time. If you can’t yet talk about it, do things which make you feel good, be kind to yourself. Go at your pace. Visit our Video Moods for some bite sized advice on helping you through a variety of stressful moments.
Steps towards letting go
Sounds straightforward; in practice it’s a bit different. Giving yourself permission to focus on your recovery is not always personally acceptable or palatable to others around you. External influences can lead us to minimise pain, dismiss it in favour of someone else’s needs. I know from experience when I stop listening to my internal voice I start to falter. I don’t function when I ignore my own needs. It takes time to adjust your focus from external to internal, particularly if your pain is a direct result of a traumatic personal experience or someone else’s actions. It is vital to give yourself permission to self – care despite what is happening around you.
If you can reach that decision/permission, this might be the point where you reach out for help. Facing the pain on your own with all the ugly nasty bits is just too scary, if someone else can walk beside you witnessing, accepting and comforting your pain perhaps you can begin to let go. How or who you choose to help yourself is up to you. For some it will be people they are close to, others might choose support groups, their GP or a counsellor. You know yourself best so make decisions that feel right for you.
As a Counsellor I witness this journey every day. When clients start talking and feeling their pain they begin to let go, reclaiming part of themselves that may have been lost. Yes it is painful, memories are hard and letting go to cry, shout, scream or be quiet takes some getting used to. There will be bad days and good days, with time and support you can recover.
Living in the here & now
It is often easier to focus on the past or what you might do in the future. We sometimes forget to take stock of what’s happening this very second. Rushing around, focusing on details that seem much less important once we slow down and check it out consciously. Listening to yourself and your body is a useful skill to learn. How am I feeling today really? Do I need to do that? I don’t like how that feels so I’m going to do something different.
Noticing feelings, thoughts and actions allows you to let them go rather than bottling them up for another time. Sharing them, communicating with someone you trust can take you even further.
This awareness is going to feel a little raw to begin with. By paying attention, we learn what feels good and what doesn’t. We can start to say no to things that don’t feel right. When people offer advice we can listen (or not!) and do what we want with that advice. If it doesn’t fit we can let it go. Working on this helps pain lose its grip and we start building ourselves again.
I can’t offer answers for everyone or wave a magic wand but if something written here feels right for you, take that small piece and protect it. When you’re ready perhaps you will find the next piece and keep building. I wish you well and hope that one day the pain just won’t be the same and you welcome yourself back.