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The Purifying Power of Pain

Learning to Embrace the Pain

What makes pain so bad is often not the actual physical or emotional sensation of it, but the fear of it. It's this big, dark demon that we like to run from. Sometimes we are so scared of the pain that we choose to cut ourselves off and stagnate. We prefer to experience nothing and become numb to life rather than deal with potential pain.

But, the funny thing about pain is that it isn't an evil thing in and of itself.  It's what we do with the pain that has the potential to be bad. When we feel pain, we have the choice to experience it as a destructive or purifying power.

With destructive pain, we turn it in on ourselves.  We fight it. We try to run from it or deny it. We don't want to feel it, and so we hide. It's in trying to escape this pain that we prolong our suffering.  It becomes this monster that is chasing us, holding power over us, ruling us. 

Instead of running from the pain, what if you embrace it? What would happen if you take it in, feel it fully, let it hurt you...and then grow from it? Sure, it's still gonna hurt like hell. But knowing that you will come out on the other side a stronger, better, more seasoned person somehow makes it easier to deal with. It's almost comforting. 

Ever hear of the whole purifying by fire concept? When a forest fire takes out acres of land, it also takes out the bits and pieces that are slowly stifling the forest and staling its development.  Sure it's devastating, and no one likes to see that kind of suffering. But after the ashes cool, that land then turns into fertile soil that nurtures a plethora of new growth, something that wouldn't have been possible with all the old life strangling progress.

In the mental realm, the pain you experience has the potential to be life changing, restorative,  purifying. If you embrace it and let it burn off some of your demons, some of the monsters you are hiding from, it can be a tool for growth. It shakes up your reality and leads you closer to your best Self. It forces you to look at who you are and what your purpose is in this world.

In the physical realm, again, we have a choice - cut off and run from the pain because it scares you and hurts, or push through it to your next level. Again, pain has the power to change you. In working out, when your body starts to burn, that is when you are just getting started. In order to get positive physical gains, you have to push your body further than it has gone before. That challenge is what creates the adaptive response to make improvements. Many people shy away from that pain because they fear it might hurt them. And so, they get stuck in their progress. But, the ability to embrace that pain and harness it to fuel you, to burn off the former barriers holding you back, will separate you from the pack. That is what will allow you to flourish. 

I leave you with a short story from my life that has served me well with this concept of embracing the pain. I ran cross country in high school...mostly because my Dad wanted me to play a sport (even though I was already dancing 6 days a week). I joined the team late in the season Freshman year because I had just had my wisdom teeth extracted and couldn't practice with the rest of the team. Needless to say, I wasn't conditioned enough for that first race. Now, I always considered myself a tough little cookie since I grew up holding my own with 2 brothers. But man, I was not prepared for the pain I felt around the second mile. Worst. Pain. Ever. I remember thinking about how I could fake a fall so I wouldn't have to finish the race, when I came around the corner and saw my Dad. He took one look at my face, distorted in pain, and instead of trying to soothe me, he yelled,  "Pain don't hurt ya none!" Needless to say, I blasted through the last mile and a half without another whimper and later went on to win regional championships and state honors.

That moment, those curt words of wisdom, changed me forever. They have been the words I live by. They have turned me into someone who doesn't fear pain or shutdown because of it...but someone who runs straight for it. Because I know that once that pain burns through, new beginnings lie ahead. So the next time you experience pain, whether it is emotional or physical, I hope you embrace it and take comfort in the knowledge that on the other side of that pain lies your transformation.

I'd love to hear your stories about how a painful experience changed you. And as hurtful as it may have been to go through it, looking back on it years later you can appreciate how it helped you grow into who you are today. Feel free to comment below or send me a personal email at ttrombly@antibunheadfitness.com. Thanks for sharing!

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