What is Your Pain Telling You?


When I need to make a decision, I get a pain in my left shoulder. It’s a finger pressing into the top of my back, pushing into my skin and urging me forward.

Stubbornly, I want to stand still. The finger of pain is brown black like tar and it’s sticky and persistent. It doesn’t move easily, it’s glued to my body. When I sit with it and talk to it about what it wants, it says, “Decide. Make a decision. Move forward. We are tired. You are tired. You are exhausting yourself.”

You may now be thinking that I’ve officially lost it. That’s ok.

I talk to my pain. I admit it.

Do you ever talk to your pain? Maybe you try to avoid it. Drown it in Cabernet. Dull it with Doritos. Assuage it with funny movies on Netflix. Throw a tantrum about it and refuse to believe that, after a PhD and a successful career and amazing friends that you still, to this day, have to deal with this crap.

Pain doesn’t seem fair. We do the right things. We’re good people. We try. So why do we still, after all these years, have to deal with pain?

In my emotional intelligence classes, I teach that emotions carry messages. I wonder sometimes if I listen to myself. I wonder if I’m walking my talk. Yes, I think, I have become so much better.

heartache-1846050_960_720Emotions carry messages.

Are you listening to your emotions?

Do you hear them?

Can you sit with pain?

Pain is the opposite of pleasure. Oh, pleasure, you sexy, chocolatey, instantly gratifying and delicious lover.

We, and our terrified little kid brains, want PLEASURE all the time.

Don’t want that pain stuff.

Except… if you can’t stand pain, how much pleasure can you stand? You can’t know ecstatic, heart bursting joy without an intimate understanding of pain.

When people take antidepressants, they numb pain, and also joy. They remain in a midspectrum of emotion. I’m not judging those who medicate, I’m just stating the fact: You can’t knock out your pain without losing pleasure.

So try sitting with pain. There is a long term payoff. And there is a message.

Sit and breathe. Locate the pain. Where is it? What does it feel like? Does it move? Does it have a color? A consistency? Can you soften around it at all? Could you move it from inside your body to outside your body? Can you talk to it?

When your pain talks to you, what does it say?

Georgi, please make a decision. We are hurting. Please relax about this. Please reach out for help. Please tell people that you care, that you love them. Please take that chance. Please visit that place. Please hang out with those people. Please laugh that off. Please slow down. Please say no.

What will your pain tell you? If you don’t listen, don’t worry. It will grow louder.

Courageous, successful reader: Pain is going to visit and revisit you through your whole life, even when you are killing it at work and feeling great in your body. Even when you have a wonderful lover. Even when you have paid off your mortgage.

Pain is natural, human, and carries a message. Start listening. Get curious. You may find you have something to say to yourself, and it’s really, really, good stuff.

You might also find relief. A twinkle of light. Strong arms that flow with flexibility through your yoga class. So much ease. Extended pleasure. Endless appreciation and awe. Exquisite joy.

Loving you out there. You can feel both the joy and the pain. They have something to say. Get quiet and learn. XO


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