I’ve been thinking about how people deal with pain. Physical, mental, emotional. Personally, you could poke me in the arm and I’d bruise like a peach. I’d probably whinge at you that it hurt. Physical pain isn’t really something I deal with very well, but put me through something mentally demanding and emotionally painful and I think I hold up pretty well.
I always wonder what actually happens in our brains when we’re in physical pain. I imagine frantic little workers running around a factory floor with an alarm blaring, trying to find a fix and the whole system at risk of a meltdown. But for emotional pain, when we’re hurt but our actual body is unscathed, what then? Do we have little characters in our head, a figure representing each major emotion, like in the film ‘Inside Out’? Do we have anger, joy, fear, sadness as sentient beings in our minds? Is it them that suffers? Are they in pain? And what, then, of their own pain?
It’s a magical thing, the way human beings overcome pain.
It’s a difficult thing to overcome, pain. Whether physical or emotional, it is a thing greatly feared by most. And rightly so, for it appears to be the thing that destroys us the most, the hardest thing to build yourself back up from. So how do we do it? I hear stories of people who experience so much pain and still find a way to smile, still find a way to get up in the morning. And it makes me wonder. It really is such a magical thing, the way human beings overcome pain.
Now I’ve had my fair share. I’ve fallen down. I’ve got the bruises, I’ve got the scars. I’ve also been hurt. I’ve got the bruises, I’ve got the scars. And if you ask me now how I managed to stay strong, how I fought, how I came out of the other side, do you know what I’d tell you? I don’t know. I guess that you could just focus on the good things in your life: family, friends, your passions and interests, and try and make them outshine the rest. But sometimes it’s harder than that. Sometimes, things happen that make those good things seem almost insignificant, or at least less important, less worth fighting for. So how do we come through the other side?
It’s a helpless feeling, seeing others in pain.
It’s a helpless feeling, seeing other people in pain and knowing you can’t take it away. You can give advice, you can empathise, but at the end of the day you can’t take it away, you can’t really fix it. But try though, we may. Wow, do we try. It’s really a beautiful thing, how people muck together to try and help others. How, sometimes, we do everything we can think of to help somebody in pain. But sometimes there isn’t anything you can do. And, boy, we don’t like this either. So maybe that’s how we do it. We get through our own pain by remembering when we’ve tried to help others, knowing that people feel this way for you. So we’re strong, for them.
‘Healing’, ‘moving on’, ‘personal growth’, I don’t know what those words mean.
Some would say it’s through ‘healing’, through ‘personal growth’ and ‘moving on’. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what these words mean. I don’t think we ever really ‘move on’, we never really ‘heal’. Cuts leave scars. They stay with us. And is this really a bad thing? Bad things mould us. Pain moulds us. It shapes us and paves the way for better things. That thing, you know, that ‘personal growth’, that comes with overcoming your pain, letting it make you a better person. So does it ever really leave us? And do we want it to? Because without pain, without a little sadness, you can’t really appreciate the good things in your life. You won’t truly understand happiness.
But I still don’t get how we do it. If you came here looking for advice, if you came looking for an explanation, I’m afraid you’ll have to get in line, because I’m no closer to the answer than you are. I guess one day we wake up and it just hurts a little less. And we go on from there. If you asked me how I overcame pain in my past, I think I would say I just took every day at a time, just tried to live my life and, slowly, there was a little more room for joy, a little less room for pain, a little less room for sadness. You realise one day that it’s just kind of gone. That, somehow, you’ve gotten yourself through. But you’ll never really know how.
Maybe if we knew, life would be a little too easy. Maybe we’re not supposed to know. But I’ll always wonder. I’ll always picture little men in hats trying to pick up the pieces. I’ll always picture glowing little beings pressing buttons in my head. And I’ll always wonder how I get myself through, and how I get others through. How we make every day a little easier than the day before. But we do.
It’s a magical thing, really. How human beings overcome pain. But how do we do it? If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you in on the secret.
© Copyright Alexandra Brown, 03/09/15.