As humans, we are primarily motivated to avoid pain.
But as unpleasant as it can be to experience pain, some of the darkest and most painful moments in our lives can transform into priceless gifts.
Here are three ways in which painful experiences can be catalysts for enormous personal growth in our lives.
Pain can be a powerful motivator
My curiosity towards happiness and fulfilment (which is a major part of the content on this blog) began in somewhat unusual circumstances.
If I had to point to a particular event in my life, it would be right after my ex-girlfriend started dating a friend of mine.
When she told me about it, I was devastated.
I couldn’t think straight and get myself to concentrate on anything for days, and I felt a kind of pain that I never experienced before.
But as unpleasant as the experience was at the time, when I look back on it now, I can see that it shook me up in a good way.
It made me introspect and realise that I didn’t want to settle for a typical life, and it made me hungry to seek more out of life. It motivated me to read books like The Secret, and I started becoming intensely curious about how to be happy and fulfilled.
Pain can make you more empathetic
Tony Robbins is one of the most sought after life coaches in the world today. But growing up, he certainly did not have it easy.
Robbins grew up in a poor and chaotic household. His mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol and even physically abusive. He left home when he was 17 years old when his mother chased him out of the house with a knife.
But he emphasises that his experience growing up with his mom was instrumental in shaping him as a person. He says,
“ If my mom had been the mother I thought I wanted, I wouldn’t be as driven; I wouldn’t be as hungry. I wouldn’t have suffered, so I probably wouldn’t have cared about other people’s suffering as much as I do. And it made me obsessed with wanting to understand people and help create change.”
Now virtually none of us would have had to endure such a painful childhood. But like Tony Robbins, the pain you have experienced in your life can make you more empathetic and even help you heal the pain of those going through similar experiences that you’ve gone through.
Pain can make your life more fulfilling
As paradoxical as it may sound, pain can help you lead a more fulfilling life. But it will largely depend on how we chose to respond to the pain.
If we try to distract ourselves with food, entertainment or intoxicants, it may not do anything to make our lives better.
But instead if we choose to work on the root cause of our pain, our lives can be transformed.
Though we usually blame outside circumstances or other people for our pain, most of the emotional pain we experience stems from a lack of control we have over our own minds. For, if we had complete control over our thoughts, virtually all of the pain in our lives would disappear.
Experiencing intense pain can force you to look inward and take up habits like meditation, Pranayama (deep-breathing), journaling etc., which can help you gain greater control over your mind and radically help to improve the quality of your life in the long run.
It’s human nature to be upset, complain and wallow in self-pity when we are going through painful experiences. After all, it’s almost never apparent that painful experiences can have any positive impact on our lives when we are hurting.
In many cases to unearth the gift from our pain, we will eventually need to stop seeing ourselves as a victim and look at the past pain we’ve experienced from an empowering perspective.
In life, we can’t always control all circumstances, but something we can always control is our perspective. And perspective can make all the difference between suffering or finding peace and growing through our pain.
The following questions are something that I have mentioned in previous articles, but I think it’s worth sharing here to view pain as a teacher.
· What lessons have my past pain taught me? / What lessons are my pain trying to teach me?
· What qualities have enduring pain instilled in me?
· How has my past pain helped me grow? / How is my pain helping me to grow?
· What can I learn from my pain so that I don’t create more pain for myself?
I’d encourage you to slow down, take your time to contemplate on each of these questions.
Note: Being in pain can be an isolating experience and make you feel as if you are alone in experiencing these feelings.
But the truth is virtually everybody goes through some kind of pain though it may not be apparent looking at them from the outside or their social media posts.
If you are going through a tough time, I’d recommend reading up about other people who’ve been in similar circumstances and have been able to overcome the pain or heal themselves.
Doing this has been very helpful for me, and it helps me feel hopeful when I’ve been in pain.
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