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Gain Without Pain February 24, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

220px-Alice_par_John_Tenniel_27Pain is intended to be a temporary signal to get us to slow down, sleep, eat, cry, or shift positions.

Once it’s gotten our attention, its purpose is served.

At that point, it is in our best interest to let it recede so we can move forward and embrace THIS moment.

It’s counter-productive to chase after pain and retrieve it due to guilt, fear, or a desire for martyrdom.

You are NOT Joan of Arc.

Most of us allow physical pain to Exit Stage Left without objection . . . we seldom request an encore performance.

So why do we insist on hanging onto emotional pain?

Why do we keep calling it back to Center Stage for encore after encore after encore?  Does loyalty to lost loved ones require us to flagellate ourselves for eternity?

How does that serve them?
How does that serve us?

Emotional pain is a heavy burden to bear . . . carting it around for the rest of our life is like toting around a wheelbarrow full of rocks.

As each new pain arises, we add more weight to the wheelbarrow.

The pain accumulates until our wheelbarrow of sorrow is overflowing and we are stumbling along behind it in a state of emotional exhaustion.

At times, we are so overloaded by the stale weight that we can barely move.

We’re far too exhausted to embrace the gift of today.

We consider letting it all go, but that makes us feel uneasy.   We’ve heard that “pain makes us stronger.”  So we continue sludging along . . . carrying our pain like a badge of honor.

Even if pushing all that pain around is making us stronger . . . so what?  The muscles we’re building are not needed for anything other than pushing around our wheelbarrow of woe.

So . . . LET’S DUMP IT.

The pain we’ve accumulated over a lifetime has served its purpose.

Mickey-SurferLet’s toss the pain and leave the wheelbarrow at the side of the road.

We can carry the lessons and memories with us . . . without weighing ourself down with all that unnecessary baggage.

We travel best when we travel light . . . all else is illusion. 

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Sidey’s Weekend Theme ~ Illusion (View from the Side) * The Serenity Principle * Zen & The Art of HappinessAttack of the Killer ANTs * Watch Your Thoughts * Not Just A Material Girl (Creating Reciprocity) * Vanquishing Illusions (Kate Shrewsday)


1. wartica - February 24, 2012

I totally agree; letting go of any kind of pain – whether it’s emotional or physical – is always the hardest to get over. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:)

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Letting go of stale pain and grievances is not always easy . . . but it’s worth it.

After all . . . our freedom is at stake. 😀

Thanks for stopping by.

2. Three Well Beings - February 24, 2012

Fabulous analogies, Nancy! I really agree with the exhaustion that comes when we pile on! It’s always good to take a little mental inventory and see if I’m holding on to too much! Debra

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Thanks, Debra.

If we hang on to tightly to the past . . . we have less energy to embrace the present.

3. Julie - February 24, 2012

I’m not sure many people think of emotional pain as something they can do away with. It’s an important lesson to learn.

Right now, however, with my cough and cold, I’m more interested in kicking my physical pain to the curb! 🙂

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

When people say, “You never get over the loss of a mother/ child/ sister/ brother/ pet/ grandparent/ spouse/ tennis racket” . . . they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

They are choosing to hang onto the pain of loss out of a sense of allegiance. They are attached to the past.

When we hang onto pain, it’s like trying to sail a boat . . . while remaining moored to the dock.

Hope your cough and cold dissipate in short order. When they depart the premises, I know that you will NOT chase after them to bring them back.

4. Andra Watkins - February 24, 2012

Emotional pain is one of the heaviest weights in the world. Releasing it is a freeing thing. I wish I’d learned that a long time ago.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Same here!

Until we learn better, we suffer under the illusion that hanging onto pain makes us better/stronger/kinder than we would otherwise be . . . when just the opposite is true.

Once we free ourselves . . . we have the energy to encourage others to let go of the tyranny of their oppressive thoughts.

5. suzicate - February 24, 2012

I don’t know why we like to hold on when releasing is so much easier and freeing. Thanks for your wonderful words today.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Thanks, Suzi!

Maybe it’s because our False Self, the Ego, can ONLY exist when it pulls us out of THIS moment ~ with worry about the future, or encore performances of the pain of the past.

When we are Here, Now . . . Ego and its concerns fade away because the False Self cannot exist in the eternal NOW.

6. Tori Nelson - February 24, 2012

“You are NOT Joan of Arc.” This. This is news to me 🙂 Great post!

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Thanks, Tori!

You know the movie, The Sixth Sense, with Haley Joel Osmond and Bruce Willis (“I see dead people”)?

I see wanna-be-martyrs everywhere.

And what they don’t seem to realize is that to be a martyr . . . they must die to today. 😉

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

BTW: The reason I stopped visiting your blog has nothing to do with you or your writing . . . I’m a fan of both.

But my computer throws a tantrum &/or hissy fit of epic proportions every time I try to visit you.

I just spent 25 minutes going to your site, waiting for your home page to load, trying to scroll down to read your last post so I could comment on your wit, the post got stuck, I waited, waited, waited some more, gave up and tried to exit, but the bouncer at the door wouldn’t let me out.

In the end I had to close everything and restart my computer. The same thing happened the last three times I’ve visited.

Is anyone else having the same problem? Is there something (like the music) that slows your site down?

I don’t have the same problem on any of the other blogs I visit.

7. winsomebella - February 24, 2012

Such wisdom…..and I,too, love “You are not Joan of Arc.” 🙂

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Thanks, Bella! Martyrdom is over-rated. 😉

8. sweetdaysundertheoaks - February 24, 2012

I have dumped the emotional pain of my past just recently and believe me Nancy I was holding on tight to it. I some how, some way got the ridiculous idea that it was not ok to be happy in my thirties. Had that most of my life until one day I found “Spirit Lights The Way~be here now” last June. And I am not letting my wheelbarrow fill up anymore. I am traveling so much lighter. I used that excuse to CH that I was just a very sensitive person and felt things more strongly, was hurt more easily, was sad much more deeply~ Bah! Yes, feel the pain, acknowledge it and move on. It is OK to be happy! Thanks Nancy!

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Yay, you! Just reading your comment filled me with positive energy . . . causing SMILES to surface, Pix!

It’s very liberating to dump the load and wash off yesterday’s junk so that we can embrace TODAY with open arms and heart.

9. souldipper - February 24, 2012

It’s the strangest thing…some people like the benefits of hanging on to that stuff. There’s some payback to keeping it and they’ll stay in denial to the bitter end.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Indeed, Amy. There are those who wear their pain like a Red Badge of Courage.

One cyber acquaintance said she could not watch people having fun at parties without being overwhelmed by sadness about the death of her daughter . . . 10 years earlier.

She felt it was incumbent upon the other party goers to show compassion by NOT enjoying themselves in front of her. She wanted them to STOP HAVING FUN to help her grieve her loss.

10 years and counting . . . with no end in sight.

10. kateshrewsday - February 24, 2012

It’s a complex business, pain and our relationship with it. And so is dumping it….

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

We tell ourselves stories and we tend to BELIEVE what we THINK . . . without really thinking at all.

Those who believe they are burdened with the weight of outdated grievances for all eternity tend to hang on to their pain with tight fists, refusing to believe (despite ample evidence to the contrary) that they could choose to LET the pain GO . . . thereby proving to themselves that they were right all along.

The Ego is a funny chap, indeed . . . preferring to be “right” at the expense of our happiness.

Like any reptitive and habitual thoughts that arise, our ruminations on pain may require that we dump them more than once. But with consistent effort, we lighten the load.

Of course, as Amy noted, some people may prefer to hang on to their pain because of the “payback” they get when others try to “cheer them up” or because, while they are engulfed in sorrow, they have an excuse to “stop living.”

It’s a choice we each must make.

Enjoyed your post on Vanquishing Illusions. Here’s to tilting at windmills!

11. sufilight - February 24, 2012

Nancy, I think many people become addicted to suffering – even when life gets better they still create suffering for themselves by using their minds in unhealthy ways. I read somewhere that the brain gets used to pain and looks for more, that is until we make the effort to change our patterns.

I am smiling and how the picture with the woman carrying the rocks can be used with different messages and blends in very well. I have used in a few times; in another site I used it to convey empowerment after a job loss.

Sharing in Facebook!

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

I expect you’re right . . . people become addicted to the habitual patterns they create in their brains with the “stories” they tell themselves over time.

Even then, they can wake up to the realization that the suffering they experience arises FROM the thoughts they think . . . not by anything that is happening TO them.

I “borrowed” that graphic from your post on a slower pace of life:

I fell in love with it and felt that she could convey empowerment in any number of ways.

We are much stronger than many of us realize. Thanks for sharing!

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

I just checked and realized I NEVER thanked you for letting me borrow that graphic. I thanked you for another avatar (the crocodile) I borrowed, but not for this one:


My bad. 😳

sufilight - February 24, 2012

Nancy, no problem. 🙂 Glad you have found creative uses for the graphics. I probably will continue to use them and have fun with them.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Thanks, Marie!

12. Life in the Boomer Lane - February 24, 2012

Great post, Nancy. I do believe that unless we experience pain or grief first, we can’t move on. But to continue to experience pain, is a choice. Sometimes people hold on to grief because they feel that that is all they have left of a person. They believe when the grief is gone, they will have nothing. Emotional pain can work the same way. It can define us. We believe that without the pain, we don’t exist. When either of these things happen, the belief that we would be nothing or that we would have nothing, that’s the danger zone.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Perfectly put, Renee.

Grief is a tangible reminder of what we have lost ~ and it can be hard to let it go. Instead of moving through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), we can stall before reaching “acceptance.” We get “stuck.”


13. Nancy Curteman - February 24, 2012

I love what Doris Robert’s (Raymond’s mother) says about suffering over past pains: “You may look back, but don’t stare.”

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

That’s awesome, NC! Marie was such a great character. 😀

14. Piglet in Portugal - February 24, 2012

Emotional pain and anxiety can go hand in hand along with grudges.
Sometimes letting go is difficult. Something happened to me recently, I am trying hard to let go and dump the emotional baggage and anger. Everytime the barrow is nearly empty a little voice within recalls me. Are you going to let her get away with it? It’s not fair…it’s not tight! Whine whine whine. Niggle Niggle…

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

That’s the False Self . . . trying to pull you out of the peace and happiness of the NOW by sending you on a wild goose chase.

From Letting Go by Guy Finley:

In the past you might have let these deceptive dark feelings guide you, but now you see through their tricks. In time their roar will dwindle to a whimper and then completely disappear.

15. SidevieW - February 25, 2012

oh yes, healthy grieving over whatever requires some attention initially and the ability to learn from it, keep the good bits and open up to new experiences

nrhatch - February 25, 2012

Grief insists that we STOP all the frenetic activity for long enough to ACCEPT that life has changed.

Instead of doing that, people distract themselves by planning elaborate funerals, jumping to handle the insurance paperwork, talking endlessly about “the end,” and finding other tedious busy work to occupy their attention.

Perhaps we would do better to just sit still with our suffering & be until peace resurfaces.

16. wightrabbit - February 25, 2012

This post – and the comments of others – are words I needed to hear, right now. I’m getting over flu and, with my defences lowered, sank into self-recrimination about … everything, overloading my ‘wheelbarrow of sorrow’ and making me feel physically worse. I now realise that I’ve skipped the acceptance step of grieving – what a relief to realise what’s been holding me back. Thank you 🙂

nrhatch - February 25, 2012

Good luck, wightrabbit! When we are feeling “down” . . . it it easy to think of all that is “wrong” with the world and with us and with our life. It’s a never-ending downward spiral. And it is up to us to change its momentum and turn it into an upward spiral.

When we learn to accept the “what is” (e.g., it is raining), we stop wasting energy resisting things we cannot change.

That frees up the energy we need to change what we can change . . . our negative, habitual, non-productive thoughts.

Instead of letting our mind operate on auto-pilot . . . we reclaim the reins and tell IT what to think about.

We no longer let the “tale” wag the dog.

17. Tilly Bud - February 25, 2012

It’s possible, of course; but easier said than done.

nrhatch - February 25, 2012

Of course. It’s that difficulty that gives Eeyores (and other self-made victims of life) a ready excuse to collapse into a puddle and say, “It’s too hard.”

Tiggers, of course, know better. We realize that peace of mind is worth the effort. After all, our life, liberty, and freedom is at stake.

Much/ Most/ All of our emotional pain is self-created by the stories we tell ourselves. When we change the stories . . . the pain dissipates . . . or expands . . . in direct correlation to what we tell ourselves about it.

In that sense, pain is NO more real than a Unicorn.
It is an illusory creature born of our imagination.

Change your mind . . . change your life.

18. eof737 - February 26, 2012

Something about pain is tantalizing and that’s why many hang onto it… Tossing it is not a bad idea for sure. 😉

nrhatch - February 26, 2012

Like any reptitive and habitual thoughts that arise, our ruminations on pain may require that we dump them more than once. But with consistent effort, we lighten the load.

The first step is to decide NOT to carry it around any longer. And many, for whatever reason, don’t want to take that step.

19. Perfecting Motherhood - February 29, 2012

I managed to finally get rid of my physical pain (back) last year, by stumbling upon the miracle herb called Holy Basil. As for emotional pain, I’ve got a lot of it piled up and I know I need to dump it and it will feel wonderful. I just have to line things up first to avoid too much collateral damage. It’s always hard to do something when you know it will affect others…

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

We can let go of pain at any time . . . no matter what is happening around us.

Picture images you’ve seen of people after a natural disaster . . . still in the midst of mayhem. Some are collapsed into heaps of emotional wreckage ~ bemoaning their fate and WISHING things were different. They are wasting energy trying to change what they cannot change.

Others are happy and calm and peaceful as they survey the damage. They have realized that JOY is never in things . . . it is in us. It is not what happens to us that matters . . . it’s how we relate to what has happened.

The goal of life is not to stop the rain from falling. It’s to learn to dance in the rain.

Best of luck!

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