• Sarah Vita Pascone

No Pain, No Gain?

You don't need to suffer to succeed.


Read that again. Hopefully, your response is "duh," but I say it because it's a paradigm that I operated under for years, mostly unconsciously. I can also see that I'm not alone.


"No pain, no gain," perpetuates this pervasive work ethic based in pushing that is directly at odds with the power of spiritually aligned action for the health of our whole selves.


So, let's talk about pain for a minute. Yes, discomfort is a natural part of growth and sure, "no pain no gain" can be our heavy metal mantra to avoid the stagnation of perpetual comfort. But, it doesn't serve us in healing the wounds that hold us back from becoming who we truly aspire to be.


What I have learned, through years of focused healing, is that the tendency to fear our pain is a strong indication that we are resisting it. The longer we resist our pain, the longer it endures.


We all know that if you want to get in shape, getting off the couch and ditching the bag of cheetos in exchange for a salad and some exercise is the path. We also know that if our habits place the former on our regular to-do list, the latter is going to feel close to painful, at least at first. This kind of pain is good, but discomfort is not the same as pain. All change involves discomfort. Pain runs deeper and as a human here on Earth, I'm going to take wild guess that you're no stranger to it.


The only path to healing pain is to surrender it. Surrender means we acknowledge, allow, and make space for how we feel. Okay, you might be thinking: "oh great, more fluffy woo-woo stuff, but really, it's spiritual warfare-level hard-- at least it has been for me and for all my fellow nerds out there, it's also science*. Surrender means we don't resist or distract from. Instead, we notice what it feels like. We take steps to become more aware of what created (or is creating) it. It's a simple concept that has taken me years to apply.


So, why do so many of us equate pain as the path to success? For one, media tells us to. Two, it's an easier way of letting ourselves off the hook from the work we need to do to move through it, which ironically creates a negative feedback loop of more pain.


If we spend our energy avoiding pain and chasing the shiny fast things, we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of desperation and fooling ourselves into thinking that our desired transcendence is just within reach. It's the whole carrot in front of the horse scenario. We're moving forward, but we'll never get there unless we pause and pivot.


I've lived this cycle for years in different ways. Even just this past year: I was crushed when the small business I'd worked to grow for five years disintegrated overnight and I quickly set out to pivot as a way to distract from the loss. The pivot was good, but the underlying intent to escape the pain of loss coupled with fear of the unknown created a haze that has taken months to burn off.


No one wants to feel pain. (And those who seek it out are living out unresolved issues that I can't touch in a five minute blog post.) To live a full and happy life, though, we must embrace pain as an inevitable part of the ride. We must welcome it to transcend it.


To grow and elevate in desired areas, we must learn and apply success principles. This process can cause considerable discomfort initially (remember the cheetos?) and ego wants to fool us into thinking it's a step backward. Really it's the only way forward. If we have built our lives around the comfort of familiar, then we are not experiencing the kind of time under tension that fuels our growth. Eventually, this fact will us cause more pain. So, maybe I'd like the phrase: discomfort now or pain later. You choose.


Pain is a signal. It's asking us to respond, but often we have been programmed (through our experiences and a society enmeshed in fear) to adopt coping mechanisms for our pain that create even more of it.


When we feel pain, we have three choices: we can avoid it, fall victim to it, or we can actively heal it.


It's much easier to choose the first two. Carrying on as usual with the superficial balm of numbing activities (like binging anything) is an appealing one, trust me. ( I may have been stoner and a binge drinker for years in my 20's and by "may" I mean without a shadow of a doubt).


Workaholism or excessive working out, while viewed as more productive coping mechanisms (that I'm also familiar with), are also more appealing than the prospect of being present with our pain.


Victimhood, while it sounds lame, is still much easier in practice than active healing, which takes some freakin' work. I'll also add that if you're coming from a deeply painful experience or a set of multiple traumas, getting started can feel crippling, which is why I can't encourage therapy enough. Therapy changed my life.


Some messed up stuff happens in our brains when we endure (or suppress) a lot of pain for a long time. And this "no pain no gain" crap is a misguided mantra that encourages us to equate holding pain with being a good person or achieving external success when really it's just glorified martyrdom. This paradigm is alive and well for many. It was for me. I still have to catch myself from falling into limiting beliefs like this. I still have to choose to align with the truth I've learned.


Suppressed pain from trauma can skew the brain.


In 2009, I was raped. Not long after, I was in a serious car accident. It left me with a fractured jaw and a clobbered right side of my body. Boy howdy, this was painful-- in every way--and yeehaw, I resisted it every step of the way.


For years throughout my recovery afterward, I thought that the pain I carried was a badge of being caring and effort-full person-- which I am, but not because of the pain. I was giving purpose to my pain beyond what it needed to be. I was making it my identity.


There is no one path to healing and so many levels to pain, but regardless of the source, the path requires first allowing it to be there, holistic care, and a willingness to let it go when the time comes to be who you are underneath the wound.


You don't push a wound to heal by poking and prodding at it, you care for it gently with the tools you have. You give it time. If it gets worse, you seek help from a professional and trust that by doing everything you can to heal, all that's left is to surrender to the belief that it will with your diligent patience.


Wishing you the courage to make the choice for discomfort now so you are equipped to surrender the pain when it comes later, dear human.


(* I realize that the link connects you to an obscure blog that isn't a scientific journal, but the book he's talking about is the science I'm referring to and I wanted you to have a built in testimonial besides mine :))




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