We all get hurt in life.

It hurts when we cannot realize our dreams. It hurts when we cannot get our needs met. And it hurts when others reject us, ignore us or force us to be something we’re not.

Our natural instinct is to move away from pain. We move our hand to avoid being burnt and we lift our foot when we step on glass. Sensible actions that protect our physical integrity.

We react similarly in response to emotional pain. We retract into our shell, close ourselves off emotionally and withhold affection from the people that hurt us. Physically we are there, but emotionally we are not.

And we avoid the people or things that hurt us. We avoid intimacy, we avoid being open and vulnerable, we avoid uncertainty and risk, and we avoid the possibility of failure and mistakes.

Or, we avoid feeling what we feel. We retreat into our thoughts, forget we have a body and stop listening to what our feelings tell us. We numb out on TV, food, work, sex or drugs.

Source of real pain

All of this is understandable. And all of this is regrettable. Because these reactions to pain are the source of our real pain.

When we stop feeling what we feel, we loose the connection to the richness, power, wisdom and vitality contained with our core.

When we avoid the things that hurt us, we forego the joy of experiencing life, of growing, of discovering and of fully exploring all the possibilities within.

When we sever the connect to others, we loose out on the joy, meaning, gratitude and richness that comes from sharing ourselves with others.

By moving away from pain, we create pain. We fill our lives with loneliness, sadness, a deep sense of loss, a general grayness, and lack of meaning and purpose.

All of this is far worse, far more damaging than the original pain we avoided.

Alternative

So what is the alternative?

Stay with the pain. Acknowledge that it hurts. Accept that it hurts. Feel that it hurts. Allow the pain to be as it is, when it is. And slowly see it dissipate or transform on its own accord.

And if you feel the need to close off, open up again as fast as you can, no matter how much that scares you. Reopen to yourself, reopen to others, keep the connection alive and allow your vitality to flow freely.

And forgive others for the pain they caused. They acted from good intentions, or from ignorance or in reaction to their own pain. They are human, they are fallible, and like you they will try and try again until they learn what they need to lean.

This is hard. Perhaps harder than anything you will ever do. It takes courage, patience and perseverance to live with an open heart, to stay with the pain, to reconnect after you have been hurt.

But when you do, the rewards will be great. More intimacy, more peace, more joy, more growth, more meaning, more vitality. More of everything you truly need and want.

I wish it for you. You deserve it, simply because you exist. And my hope for you is that you will give it to yourself.

Ilja van Roon

P.S. Now that you are, maybe also read about the value of suffering and the power of our desire.