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Pain and Stress as Teachers – Not Bad Things

We instinctively avoid discontent, discomfort, pain and stress, because we have typically judged them as “bad”.   What if we viewed pain and stress as teachers?

Pain, stress, discomfort, and discontent are a way of letting us know something is amiss, threatening our survival, and needing our attention.  They are a primal response built into us that doesn’t distinguish between valid threats, and stories we tell ourselves which may have little real threat value.

Typically, we avoid facing what is really beneath them, and may even attempt to numb the pain in the name of “relief”, and “stress management”.   We may even accept them as a normal part of life, or the aging process, i.e. something we can do nothing about.  So, we live with them.

Seeing Pain and Stress as Teachers – Get Off the Treadmill….

Viewing life’s challenges, discomforts, pain and stress as teachers can be a very different, empowering experience.  Seeing pain and stress as teachers can help you discover ways in which you are able to respond differently, to enrich your experience, and find a silver lining.  It may also improve your quality of life, and your health.  It takes an open mind, a willingness to know yourself deeply, and a willingness to grow.

The mistake I see many make is chasing symptoms, and assuming that their absence means the cause has been addressed.  That is NOT necessarily true.  There are many ways to address symptoms, i.e. “numb the pain”, without addressing the root causes at all. That leaves you open to further trouble, and being caught on the symptom-chasing treadmill.

Pain and Stress as Teachers - or the treadmill

Intercept the Cycles – Be Respons-ABLE

What if you intercepted the chronic cycles, and broke the patterns by discovering the roots of your challenges and addressing them at that level?  What if seeing pain and stress as teachers actually had some value you could recognize, capitalize upon, draw strength from? How would your life be different if you resolved them at the root, and they became smaller factors in your life?

And, it is about being able to respond differently – not about blaming yourself, i.e. “responsABLE” vs. “responsIble”.  Responding differently empowers you to have a potentially richer, more positive experience of your circumstances.

What you resist persists.  You could stop resisting, acknowledge your pain and stress, and ask some questions that might help change, and even enrich your experience.  Have you considered that?

Pain and Stress as Teachers - respond and stop the cycle


Asking provocative questions, and continually digging deeper can be very revealing, though not necessarily easy.

First, it is helpful to re-frame your beliefs.  Be willing to consider discomfort, pain and stress as teachers.  Be willing to see what you can learn, and how you can grow from experiencing them.  Yes, you may need to treat symptoms to get yourself out of the crisis/survival mode, but that is not the same as getting to the root of the problem.

Invite yourself to explore what is going on in your life,  your dominant internal dialogue (that voice in your head responding to your situation), your thoughts, your feelings. Also notice your emotions – the resulting physical responses to your feelings.

Ignoring the connections between your thoughts, feelings, and resulting physical responses does not negate their existence.  It simply puts them outside your frame of attention giving you a false sense of things being ok.

Keep asking “why?” and digging deeper until you find your “ah-ha!”.

Pain and Stress as Teachers - dig for your ah-ha

Listen to the Whispers of Your Inner Wisdom

The “positive/pleasant” emotions have effects on you physically, and in moderation, don’t harm you.  The “negative/unpleasant” emotions tend to hold you back, as well as create tension and stress-related reactions in your body.  (Note: Even a seemingly positive event can bring its own stress, as all the bridezillas out there know. This happens as your fears, doubts, and anxiety creep in, or you fail to set healthy boundaries).

Your inner dialogue is something only you can hear.  It is the voices of your Inner Wisdom, your gut, your heart, and your Ego speaking to you. Because it is rich with information, it can show you your opportunities for course-correction.  But, you have to listen to it, and decipher it.

Whispers of discontent, fear, anxiety, anger, desires and dreams unrealized are clues.  They show you opportunities to re-frame your perspective, and course-correct.

They may be:

  • telling you you need to make more time for yourself
  • telling you that you are not living in alignment with your True Self, as if you are a square peg forcing yourself into a round hole.
  • showing you where your life is imbalanced.
  • showing you where you are living from a less than unconditionally loving place.
  • Etc.

Give Yourself a Reality Check

We tend to tell ourselves stories about our circumstances that we genuinely believe are true. Yet, when examining them more deeply, we discover there is little if any real threat to our survival in the situation.

One common example I use: public speaking.  Fear of public speaking typically arises from feeling inadequate, incompetent, or foolish.  You know instinctively that “the tribe” must accept you for you to have the support and resources you need to survive.  You must be adequate, worthy, good enough, competent, etc., to be accepted.

In most cases, is there a real chance of rejection which will result in the tribe leaving you for dead?

Just food for thought…… See if you can apply the same reasoning to your situations…….

Read From Chopra’s Newsletter & Contact Me for a Consultation

If you would like help checking your reality in more depth, and discovering your opportunities:

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If you would like to explore pain as a teacher from another, yet similar perspective, I invite you to read this article from Deepak Chopra’s newsletter by Valerie Sjoberg, L.Ac.

Talk to you soon!