There are many who think that “Pain means something is wrong.” It’s kind of an obvious thought, isn’t it? And, like many obvious thoughts, it misses a lot and has some serious downsides to going around believing it.
Let me go one step further, “Pain means something is wrong” is a dangerous oversimplification that actively interferes with a growth and progress mindset.
There are all kinds of things in life that hurt that do not mean that something is wrong. Childbirth hurts; but, there’s nothing wrong. Disillusionment hurts; but there is nothing wrong. Children leaving home when they grow up hurts; but, there is nothing wrong. For many people, telling someone that they have no interest in a relationship and hurting their feelings hurts; but, there is nothing wrong. Getting surgery hurts; but, it also heals and there is nothing wrong.
And, perhaps the clearest and most important example of this principle from a personal growth perspective, when children are going through puberty and going through growth spurts, their bodies rapid growth and change can often cause growing pains; but, there is nothing wrong.
The thing that is most relevant to us is that attitude, expectation, fear and tension can easily turn discomfort and stretching into pain. The fear of pain, amplified by the belief that “Pain means something is wrong” leads to that tension and resistance to the experience and often creates the pain which halts progress.
Transitions and transformation often hurt; but, that hurt is simply part of the process. There is nothing bad or wrong about it. “Bad” and “wrong” are labels, ideas; and, all too often, toxic and counterproductive. Our tendency to judge instead of accept and allow is where much of our suffering and heartache ultimately comes from. We resist and in resisting create pain and frustration instead of relaxation and ease.
Pain is unavoidable. Suffering is a choice. Though, admittedly, more of an unconscious one than a conscious one; but, isn’t that why you’re here reading the ramblings of a hypnotist? To gain greater control over those unconscious, reflexive, instinctive choices we all make?
Quite literally, since wrong is a judgment and an idea as opposed to an object, nothing is wrong. Wrongness is not actually a thing. Sure, there is injury; but, it’s not wrong that people sometimes get injured, it’s just part of life. If a child trips and skins their knee, they have sustained an injury; but, there is nothing wrong. And, if they succumb to the illusion and start to think that there’s something wrong with an occasional injury, then their desire to run and play becomes diminished and their enjoyment of life is diminished as well.
There is a damn good reason that a lot of professional athletes tell themselves “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” That mindset allows people to relax into the discomfort and diminishes the self-created pain that arises through resistance to discomfort.
Learning new skills can be immensely frustrating and frustration is a kind of emotional pain. If someone has little experience, the gulf between where they are and where they want to be can seem insurmountable. The human tendency to compare oneself to others, and in particular compare themselves to masters, tends to lead to feelings of weakness and inadequacy; but, those feelings are ultimately meaningless. Yes, we need to observe them and allow them, which means that we need to stop thinking of that pain as wrong in order stop resisting them and move past them. Pain is not wrong and pain does not mean that something is wrong.
Achievement of any kind requires dedication and sacrifice. Sacrifice means there is something that you’re giving up and the mind interprets loss as pain and creates fear to protect you from that pain. Even something as simple as “don’t play video games when you have homework to do” ultimately becomes difficult for many because of the desire to avoid pain. What may appear to be laziness is, at times, the desire to avoid making a sacrifice. (Though, there are a host of other fears that may create procrastination problems as well.) Sometimes, pain is good. Pain is often the sign that you are doing the right things and are in control of your baser instincts. The ability to accepting and allow pain is essential to self-mastery. “Pain is weakness leaving the body” is not just a thing people say, it’s often the truth. It has the power to motivate because it’s true.
And, even more dangerous is how the idea that “Pain means something is wrong” affects empathy. Empathy is a kind of sympathetic resonance. We experience the pain, frustration, sorrows and heart-ache of others through our empathy; as well as their joys, their peace, their happiness and their gladness. Feeling pain through empathy does not mean something is wrong, it provides us with an opportunity to bless and to assist. It provides us an opportunity to experience the joy of giving and to create greater intimacy and closeness with others. When people are in fear and avoidance regarding pain, they are MUCH more likely to respond to others in pain with an “I don’t want to hear about it” attitude, which ultimately boils down to “I don’t want to feel the pain of empathy and take any responsibility for making things better.”
In many cases, the idea that “Pain means something is wrong” leads directly to reckless and irresponsible behavior.
Guilt is painful; but, guilt is a teaching emotion. Guilt is the internal prod that moves us forward and leads us to become more compassionate, more caring and more responsible. Quite literally, only psychopaths don’t feel guilt and often NOT feeling pain is the indicator that something is wrong. Yes, we need to move past guilt, which we do by accepting it and integrating it. We need to let the guilt teach us and then it naturally fades when it’s job is done.
Many of the worst excesses of narcissists are born of their tendency to run away from their guilt, their shame, and thus, their empathy; or, in other words, they are cowards who can’t face pain.
Quite simply, one of the most important attitudes from a learning and growth perspective is to love and appreciate pain. Accept it and allow it. Don’t resist it and you can learn from it, you can move through it and come out the far side stronger and wiser. In more situations than I can list “Pain is weakness leaving the body” is the more true and accurate perspective than “Pain means something is wrong.”
And, of course, genuine injury does need to be treated; that’s not the point here. Sometimes, muscle soreness means we need to take it easy for a little while and give ourselves the chance to recover. There is absolutely such a thing as going too hard and creating injury by ignoring our bodies signals that we need time and space to rest and recover. There’s a reason I said that “Pain means something is wrong” is a dangerous oversimplification rather than saying that it is wrong. It’s not wrong. Allowing pain is about becoming MORE responsible, more courageous, more respectful, more compassionate and more loving.
Just because there are SOME injuries that are inconsequential and are best ignored certainly doesn’t mean ALL injuries fall in that category. Just because there are many types of pain that are best accepted and allowed while not allowing them to stop us or freak us out; doesn’t mean that there aren’t other pains that serve to say, “Stop that, it’s bad for you.”
Life’s complicated. Trust your intuition. You are entirely intelligent enough to figure out which mindset is appropriate to which situation. Don’t tell yourself otherwise.