The Loneliness of PainApr 21, 2023
Pain can feel like such an isolating experience. Regardless of whether it is physical or emotional pain, no one will quite understand what you are going through (even those who have felt similar pain before or those closest to you.)
It’s in such pain that we can achingly long for connection and safety in our body, mind, and to be with others. That a tiny bit of relief can be as simple as being reassured that we are not alone in it and that we are accepted completely in the moment. Our desire for connection, to be seen, to be heard can not only be met with understanding and compassion but overwhelm and repulsion. One leads to connection, the other leaves us in a separation.
We can feel alone in our struggle and isolate, turning inward and self protective. Because pain is exhausting. It slows time down and can be wildly distracting in our lives, taking us from the very things we love.
Dr. John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at University College London has likened menstrual cramping to the pain of a heart attack. Others have found that emotional pain, especially heartache and social rejection, literally produces physical pain in the heart and body. And other research concludes that physical pain can have psychological impact. I offer this to you to point to something we all share: the human experience. We all feel pain. We all feel pleasure.
Empathy is being with the discomfort of another while being in the discomfort of our own experience. (Resource links at the end)
As we find ways to make pain more communicable and sharable, we allow deeper intimacy. Deeper connection. Deepening of relationship. Sharing the experience of our pain is NOT about bringing another INTO the pain but to have reassurance that there is still connection and safety. And that we can share our honest, authentic, raw realness and still be loved.
••Our most powerful medicine is EMPATHY••
First with self. Then with others. Empathy is validating the other’s experience and allowing them to be whole and complete within that experience. It allows us to feel safe and that we belong.
If folx in your life are experiencing pain (emotional/physical):
- If you are resourced and feeling stable in yourself. Always use Self-Empathy and ask if your being with another harms either of you in anyway. If all is a go:
- Reach out. Just this action is a HUGE step for others and yourself.
- Ask them about what life is like for them.
- Genuinely listen to what they share.
- Empathize with their experiences, whether you fully understand their pain or not. - Validate their experience
- Let them know you’re in this with them, if in fact you are. It’s awful to hear “I’m here for you” and then the person disappears.
- Offer specific assistance that you are authentically wanting to do.
**(If you are experiencing pain, this may be an opportunity to journal your experience and reach out to safe others)
I’ve recently been experiencing rather debilitating knee pain. It causes me to think about the many physical steps that it takes to move from one place to another. How many knee bends, subtle movements of the bones, muscles, tendons, it will take to go from here to there…. I crave collaboration, someone to tell me “it’s going to be ok,” to hold me in my fears of never being able to dance and hike again (unrealistic but still very valid feelings.) No fixing, no support, just to be with someone IN my pain. (Dont worry y’all, just sharing personally to show you what it looks like. I’ve got a great family that sits with me and I’m happily realigning my life)