Step-1: Acknowledging Our Pain
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Welcome to Step-1: Acknowledging Our Pain from my 7-Steps to Heal from Your Run-of-the-Mill Childhood Traumas. Here’s a link for those of you who missed it. I’m excited to get into this one but also a little intimidated. How do I talk about pain when we are triggered to avoid it? All I needed to say is, “Let’s talk about pain,” and watch how quickly people click out of here. But as I mentioned in the last article, I’m doing this for your own good. How about if I promise a video of a cute kitten at the end? Maybe that will make it all better? Let’s go with that…
Before I continue, I want to pause for a moment to shout out to those of you who have the depth to know pain. You’re not pain deniers… nope! For you, the challenge may be peeling your snuggly little grip off pain to let it go. For some of us, we live under the paradox of being both the victims of pain and its guardians. We’re hiding under a blanket of pain, feeling both trapped and justified. Our pain is our why… why we can’t.. why we do… why we don’t do… why we’re stuck.
In any case, this article is for all ya’ll! Ain’t no human alive that hasn’t skinned a knee, gotten sick, had their heartbroken, lost something valuable, or felt deeply alone. Sure, Life has all its good points… like love, joy, peace, awe, and laughter. But Life hurts too! Avoiding pain isn’t an option so long as you’re in this here place. So if pain is as natural as the prickly little hairs I keep pluckin’ off my chin, why do we struggle so much with it? Here’s my hypothesis… generation after generation, we haven’t a clue how to heal our pain, so we just keep passing it on down the line, “Here ya go….”
To heal would mean we face it, move closer to it, go through it, and then when the time is right, not a minute before, we come out of the other side transformed by it.
Look, I’m a parent, and I know the burden we already carry in trying to raise good humans. It feels like a slap in the face to also be held accountable for healing a lineage of pain, but there it is! Our run-of-the-mill childhood traumas are “childhood” traumas because that’s when they happened, under the care and guidance of the people who we expected and needed to love us the most.
We were all once helpless, impressionable, naïve, narcissistic, little beings with imperfect parents that didn’t know how to deal with pain any more than they were about to teach us how not to deal with it. Everyone is innocent, really!
There are some pretty phenomenal parents out there. I’m not discrediting any of us (did you see what I just did there ;) We do the best we can based on what we needed and didn’t get. Or what we got but wished we hadn’t. Or what we think we know is best.
Like our parents and their parents before them, we will succeed in some ways but fail in others. And fail daily, if you’re anything like me. Those often innocent failings hurt. But we can learn and then teach our kids that pain happens. It might suck, but here are some tools to be with it while it’s here, and then it will pass. For the big hurts, like abuse or death, there are other skills for learning to live with pain that may never go away.
Well, that’s how we can save future generations anyways. But what about those of us starting in the middle or end of our lives. Like so often, our unacknowledged and unresolved childhood pain usually creates a bunch more pain.
The unresolved pain from our past shows itself in our present through our reactivity, withdrawal, defensiveness, rage, need for control, and all the other myriad of ways we still act like children. The adult who is still carrying around childhood trauma lacks self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and inner resources to show up effectively in their relationships and life. Unresolved pain stunts our growth. We didn’t know how to effectively deal with it then, and we still don’t. Rather than developing those skills, we reexperience the same helpless, sad, lonely, hurtful, and confusing scenario over and over again. This, of course, simply confirms we are justified in our pain and makes it harder to heal from it.
Here’s an example… think about a recent time you couldn’t get something you really wanted? How did you feel? How did you behave? What happened? Not getting what we want is a universal human pain we all face on the daily. So what do you do when it’s your turn? I’ve observed that this one really brings on the tantrums, whether subtle or overt.
Pain is complex and has a lot of nuances. There are levels to our pain: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Then there is good pain and bad pain on each of those levels. There is personal pain, unique to our individual history, and there is universal pain embedded in the human experience. And, finally, there is variation in intensity and duration to all of this.
Oh Lordie, I could go on a tangent on any one of those categories. Let me reign myself back in by saying, pain is not our problem. Not knowing what to do with it is. I suspect if we normalized pain, all the kinds, and were taught how to care for ourselves and each other while we were in it, we would feel more confident to acknowledge and face it when it comes. And so the circular nature of the 7-Steps to Heal from Run-of-the-Mill Childhood Trauma.
I am not suggesting that life sucks, at least not all of it. But sometimes, it does. We do not become adept at moving through the sucky parts by wallowing in them or denying them. I am so grateful for the brilliant moments. The ones that bring joy, grace, and connection. I am working at releasing my agenda and preferences for one over the other to fully live all the colors of this existence. “It’s all good” doesn’t serve us any more than “It’s all bad.”
What will serve the highest good for all of us is to be present with what is (the good, bad, the beautiful, and the ugly), breathe through it, forgive, regularly question our beliefs, be open to learning and be compassionate with ourselves and our fellow humans. Pain doesn’t always bring out the best in us, but healing and learning from it can.
As promised, a cute kitten video...