Today is May 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do allow yourself to feel pain and let the storm change you?” This reflection post may be difficult for those who have experienced traumatic events, relationships, or life situations as it involves a series of questions around your relationship with emotional pain. Today's question refers to a strategy some have used to navigate the chaos; no different from the other 364 blog posts in this series.
Unlike so many other posts, however, today's strategy involves one to allow the storm of pain to wash over them as they navigate the chaos. American singer, songwriter, and poet Jim Morrison believed experiencing pain is a necessary to feel alive and wrote “People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
To unpack Morrison’s quote here are some additional questions to consider:
How often are you afraid of your own feelings?
How often has love hurt you?
Have you allowed pain to wake you up?
When do you try to hide your pain?
Have you garnered strength from your pain?
Have you recognized how your pain is part of your reality?
Do you hide your feelings to distort your sense of reality?
How do you carry your pain?
The storms of pain people encounter as they navigate the chaos have been studied closely. One such researcher is Geoff MacDonald, who observed: "We do ourselves a disservice when we try to ignore the pain and our emotions, or make them go away, rather than sitting and listening to them. These negative emotions are part of an adaptive response and healing process. If you love someone so much it hurts, take time to sit with that. Try to understand why the need is so great. There's something going on here that's bigger than this particular relationship." Just as you can’t run between the raindrops in a downpour, you cannot avoid the storm of pain life places in your path.
In her November 14, 2015, Psychology Today article Amy Morin echoed MacDonald’s research and remarked: “the biggest misconception about happiness is the path to achieving it involves avoiding pain. But pain is a necessary part of happiness.” This necessary pain is synonymous with what best-selling Japanese author Haruki Murakami labeled ‘the storm.” Murakami wrote “The storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So. all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm and once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Kio Briggs wrote about storms in Meditations on Freedom and noted “I believe it is supposed to get difficult - your belief in your dream life is supposed to be tested. Remember, just beyond the storm is the island; if you really want to get there then fight for it and stay the course.” But few people fight to stay the course.
As Briggs wrote: “We sometimes see the storm in the distance and believe that the difficulty of going through it is not worth it; we believe that our canoe cannot make it through the storm, so we never even try to. Some begin the journey then turn around when the canoe starts swaying a bit. Oftentimes we get into a storm and begin to question if the journey is even worth it; we stop believing the island on the other side exists. Some even get as far as the midst of the storm and turn around they have almost passed it - along the way it is easy to stop believing that the island truly exists. Only a few people fight for it and truly believe that it exists, as such, they never stop moving towards it until they eventually make it.”
Do you see the storm in the distance and believe it is too difficult to even start?
Do you begin the journey to the storm but turn around when it gets too challenging?
Do you travel into the storm only to turn around just before the calm was to appear?
Are you one of the few who fight through the storm and navigate the chaos to the other side?
How often do you ignore your pain?
How often do you find yourself trying to avoid the rain instead of allowing yourself to feel it?
How often do you embrace the storms of life and use them as points of reflection to learn, to grow, and to increase your self-awareness?
How often do allow yourself to feel pain and let the storm change you?