Healing Old Wounds: Moving Beyond Pain and Suffering

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One of the things that sometimes worries me about humanity is the extent to which it seems like we glorify suffering.

What I mean by that is that people view so many things in their lives in terms of how much they had to suffer in order to get it, whatever "it" might be.

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Somehow, it even seems woven into the very fabric of culture. Consider this: we have a saying that goes "misery loves company" but we don't have a corresponding saying that says joy loves company. Why is that?

Consider that we allegedly want the "ideal" of freely given unconditional love... and yet human mythology (and fairy tales) is filled with stories of people who had to go through endless suffering in order to "earn" love. Just look at the world of dating where someone goes in search of unconditional love by "playing hard to get." How on Earth is that consistent?

Earlier today I was talking to a friend, and after the quick introductory small talk and catching up on the basics, she launched into a long treatise about all the things that were going wrong in her life and all the things that were causing her pain. After a few minutes, it was all I could do to not just hang up.

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Based on several decades of talking to counseling clients, it's painfully obvious that a lot of people actively choose suffering. When you just read that as a statement on a page, it seems almost absurd that anybody would do that. And yet, people will do it all the time.

At the foundation of almost all human nature and behavior, lies the fundamental idea that we don't really do anything much unless there's some kind of reward, tangible or intangible. For whatever reason, a substantial number of people have been conditioned to believe that pain is a type of reward worth receiving.

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In most cases, these people grew up in wildly dysfunctional homes, where — in fact — pain (in the form of scolding, beatings and abuse) was dished out as a kind of "reward" for anything they wanted to do that deviated even the slightest from their parents' wishes. Subsequently, we take that dysfunction forward, and repeat in our adult lives. In severe cases, life doesn't feel right unless we're in pain.

When confronted with this as a possibility, a lot of people immediately go into denial and say that they're doing nothing of the sort. But the actual evidence speaks to the contrary.

My friend whom I talked to on the phone, grew up in a household filled with chaos and drama. Someone was always having a crisis. Even now, as an adult past age 50, she doesn't know how to function except in a state of crisis. And if there isn't a crisis happening around her, she will create her own drama.

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So how do we heal this kind of toxic behavior?

As always, the first step is to simply recognize and acknowledge that the patterns are there. That's not always an easy task. My friend, for example, is in deep denial about the fact that she's drawn to perpetual pain and chaos. Sadly, it seems unlikely that she will dig her way out of her own abyss until she is willing to objectively look at what's going on around her, and recognize that she is the cause of many of the problems.

Even when we recognize our patterns, it still takes diligence, time and patience to consciously change what we're doing when we observe ourselves slipping into old ways.

However, the end result is worth it!

Thanks for reading and Bright Blessings to all!


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