Pain and Introspection
Is pain synonymous with introspection? Does Introspection come only through pain?
The quick and easy answer is, yes and no to both questions. I speak of emotional pain acting as a catalyst which sparks off a period of introspection. Why a yes and no answer? Because I have observed that in some people, no matter how painful their lives have become, they refuse to encounter a period of self- reflection and observation of their own behaviour and the role they may have played in a situation that lead to the great emotional pain that they are now suffering. So they stand firmly in the no camp proving that pain is neither synonymous with introspection, and they certainly cannot contribute anything to the second question.
So I shall look only at the yes camp, primarily myself. I have recently realised that every time I encounter pain I always enter into a period of introspection and this has been consistent for 15 years now. Hence, the first question, as rhetorical as this may be, I hope the reader shall explore this issue with me.
When I first embarked on the journey of self- analysis 15 years ago my life had become so incredibly painful. What came to my mind was this; “I can never go through this again. So what can I do to ensure that I shall never be so hurt again, nor be in a situation like this again? How can I foresee this so I never experience this again, and what was my role in this? What part did I play in the relationship that leads to such great pain?”
It was these questions that spun through my mind in defence mode, and how to avoid that kind of pain in the future that started my journey of introspection. What was also important to note was the word “Again” was constantly in my mind; it was a driving force, pushing me into introspection out of fear that I may experience this kind of emotional pain in the future, or more frequently in my life if I didn’t find the solution within myself. It was power and control that I needed back in my life that forged these questions in my mind. How would I have the power to prevent this ever happening again? How would I have control over my life so that I would never endure such an ordeal again? This was my driving force towards self-analysis and a long period of introspection, which lead on to many periods like this whenever I encountered great emotional pain.
I don’t like pain, we are not friends and I am the childish one in this relationship with pain. It clearly has a thing for me. Sometimes I think it stalks me and it knows best what my needs are and I just want rid of it. I try so hard to manipulate myself out of it and away from it, emotionally disconnecting and refusing to at first take on any messages it is sending me. If it was a lover I would have had a restraining order on it many years ago. Yet clearly the conductor it uses to get into my life is very often in human form and we confuse that with the belief that if we had never encountered that person we would not be suffering now. We also spend too much time focusing on the other person and seeing it as them, they are the problem, instead of looking at our own shortcomings and what role we played and what we should learn about ourselves. This is another way of avoiding the process of growth through pain, blaming someone else for our painful experience. If we focus on their issues then we can avoid looking at our own.
The other avoidance techniques are trying to eradicate the pain with some method of pain relief, which doesn’t work and ultimately leads to other problems and more pain. All of the tricks we use to numb our pain such as drugs, sex and alcohol don’t work either! There is no such thing as an emotional anesthetic. The pain is still there attached to you like a parasite, faithfully yours although not wanted nor invited. It has developed a symbiotic relationship with you and all the profanity that courses through your mind that you scream at it, will not shift it. A force and entity we can never be rid of once it descends upon us and the only way out…… is through it. And that is painful; the only way out of pain is through pain!
What I discovered was my own self- reflection and introspection was my only way through the ghastly gut wrenching pain and yet at the same time acquiring new knowledge and understanding and eventually feeling slightly reborn as a wiser and somewhat emotionally more powerful version of the person I was before; looking back at what I had endured and seeing the intimate and beautiful lessons that pain had allowed me to acquire. Then facing it straight in its black eyes, saying “You hurt so badly but look at how you made me, wiser, stronger, kinder more compassionate, and less vulnerable to the world; I’m strong enough to thank you now, and I won’t see you in this kind of way again” But I know it will come and stay with me again for other lessons to be learnt just not in that particular one. Should I see it as an old friend, teacher, parent or a part of God’s love? Or maybe it is an instrument of God, that pain is God given in order for us to grow should we so choose?
It is within the darkest and most painful times, as I feel myself falling into the abyss of the element of pain that the questions start and the journey of growth begins. It has never been in the happiest of times that I have ever taken this journey. In times of joy and comfort I actually plateau and even stagnate in my state of emotional intelligence. Therefore the answer to my second question is, yes my introspection only comes through pain. So my experience is that growth is painful because it comes through great pain. If we choose to take the journey of introspection this is true; if we choose not to go through introspection, we then suffer in pain with no growth whatsoever. It is actually a matter of choice if one becomes synonymous with the other.
Samantha Flower co-author of, The Persecution of Others