Imagine you have been renovating the house and you end up with a dirty splinter deep inside your finger.
It hurts, but you avoid pulling out the splinter because that will hurt. So the splinter stays and you ignore the pain, hoping the body will take care of itself.
It doesn’t. A small infection develops and the pain worsens. Still you avoid pulling out the splinter, because the finger is now even more painful to the touch.
The infection worsens and the finger swells so much it becomes harder to reach the splinter. And so it stays, the pain grows and it is becomes almost impossible to ignore.
Now the infection spreads, you spike a fever and you develop blood poisoning. Only when anaphylactic shock is around the corner, do you go to the hospital.
A doctor surgically removes the splinter and flushes your system with antibiotics. He tells you that, had you waited any longer, it would have cost you your finger or your life.
Over the next few weeks, the body heals itself, but the infection, antibiotics and surgery have taken a heavy toll on your health. You’re left exhausted.
Unrealistic scenario? Far from it. We carry emotional splinters in our body-mind and we tend to ignore them as long as we can.
We avoid pulling them out at the earliest possible opportunity, for fear of the pain that we anticipate.
In reality, that pain is often not nearly as bad, only short-lived and always followed by relief. And the pain is never worse than the consequences of delaying action.
And yet, we delay. We turn to painkillers like drugs, sex, work or spacing out in front of the TV. Or we simply disconnect from our inner world and no longer feel what we feel.
This can cost us our health, our relationships, our careers. It diminishes our vitality and removes our joy. Rather than being fully present to life, we live it on cruise control.
Fear of pain
Many people remove their splinters only when they get to the hospital. And some even manage to resist pain to the point where they lose their finger or their life.
Rationally speaking, this is the worst possible choice. The smart thing is to remove the splinter early on, heal and live a healthy and happy life.
It all boils down to how we deal with pain and fear of pain. It we overcome it, we can heal. If we don’t, our body will fight it even if it needs to self-destruct.
So ask yourself: which splinters are still inside my body-mind?
How is my body-mind telling me there is an infection?
What strategies do I use to ignore or numb the pain?
And what do those strategies cost me in the long run?
Ilja van Roon
Sign up for my newsletter to receive insights, tools and give-aways for your personal and professional development.