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Pivoting Away From Pain
By Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D.
When you feel the pain of abandonment, loneliness, or fear, or any other kind of pain, there's no doubt that you feel your life isn't worth much. You can't imagine being out of the pain and you feel you can't go much more into the blackness. All that is true and understandable, but there are other ways of looking at it, no matter what the reason for your pain is.
I taped a show recently about happiness, a topic I talk and write about a lot and it certainly sounds as though it doesn't have much to do with the topic of today's article. But it does. The reason pain and happiness are connected, is because you have a way of going from the former to the latter. You can create a bridge that can take you from pain - if not to happiness, then at least to a place where you can see your life as a good one again. This is a bit like learning how to go from playing bad tennis to good tennis in one fell swoop. It takes a bit of practice, but once you catch on, and more importantly, once you decide that this is what you want and choose to do, it becomes relatively easy because you feel so much better if you do it. Furthermore it gives you a measure of autonomy, a sense of agency in your own life trajectory. It involves a central and prerequisite element of choice.
How? Some writers call it pivoting, or swiveling. Remember how you used to stand on your heels as a child? And then you would pivot about 180 degrees, so that at the end of the movement, you were facing in a totally different direction? First you were looking at your house, then you pivoted, and then you were looking at the street. First you were looking at the garbage can brimming with rubbish, and then you were looking at the tulips your mother had planted. First you were looking at an abandoned construction site and then you were looking at the lush greens of a golf course.
This is the kind of inner movement that can occur when you need to put yourself in a place where you aren't hurting so much. Let's not pretend that there aren't times where you need to go through pain in order to get through to the other side. But in the same way a quadriplegic is not always a quadriplegic, when you are in pain, there is no reason for you to be in pain all the time. And it is unfortunately at this part of the pain that many people feel they are impotent and helpless in the face of their situation. They simply do not believe it is within their power to do something about it.
(The reason a quadriplegic is not always one, is because there are times when he is laughing, and has forgotten about his state, when he is eating and is not thinking about it, when he is conversing, or watching a movie, etc., and not consciously a quadriplegic. Likewise, a person with terminal cancer is not always a person with terminal cancer, because there are moments when other thoughts and activities take over the mind and feelings, despite the inevitability of the impending end.)
So what I'm suggesting here is that you begin to learn how to swivel. When something is not good, go from that place in your mind and feelings to another place. Not by pretending the pain does not exist.That would be repression and if you do that, the pain always pops up in another - perhaps even worse - place. So you acknowledge the pain, and you say to yourself that you have not yet managed to find a solution for it, but that just right now you are going to choose to focus elsewhere rather than on the pain. That might be imagining something that gives you pleasure or joy, or it might be remembering something that once gave you pleasure or joy. It might be looking at something beautiful in your surroundings that brings you a sense of gratitude and peace (I am talking about what might be a recently-emerged blade of grass, a floating cloud, lilting birdsong, a purring kitten, a rain-washed field of corn, or a flash of brilliant light on an inner-city wall as the sun moves closer to the overhead position). However you do it, it will change - for a time - your energetic frequency from pain to something slightly - or greatly - better. And in that space of your new-found frequency, you can feel better.
Is that disloyalty? Disloyalty to your worries, your problem, your sense of abandonment, even your sense of eternal loss in the case of someone's death? Of course not. Are you being disloyal to your wound when you dress it, when you put salve on it, when you set the broken bones, when you stitch the cut flesh?
Comparisons of this nature offend some people. That's why I suggest you might want to consider some out-of-the-box thinking about this. It may be a challenge to do so, it may stretch you, but do you truly believe it is wrong to try to make yourself feel better when something is causing you pain or problems?
One final thought: don't you believe that once you feel better, you will find it just a bit harder to go back into the deep place of pain? And is that not good? Doesn't that mean the bone is knitting, that rather than festering, the wound is beginning to heal?