Embracing Pain

I will to will Thy Will…

Embracing Pain

Dear U(nicorn),

It’s not that I don’t value the stuff I wrote the last article… I believe every word! I just think it sounded like a lot of hot wind! (Except the song… I like the song… and the thing from the channeled plant!) The clue of where I went astray was a mention that “BIG things” were going on within me… and without. For safety and comfort’s sake, I chose to concentrate on “without” and hide out from “within.” (Ever see the bumper sticker: “Go Within or Go Without?”) I’ll try not to do that again! And if you notice me yapping ‘head without heart,’ please let me know!

Some of the “within” stuff has felt very challenging, which is why I didn’t go there. It’s particularly distressing when I’m busy “soap-boxing”, to admit I feel majorly f***ed up! There’s despair… self-recrimination… a lot of confusion… shame… a general heaviness. A number of long-term relationships are shifting. Old habits of behavior are being brought into question &/or shown up to be really unhelpful!!! It’s overwhelming… It hurts! Plain and simple!


To normalize this a tad, I want to share some “Seeds of Equality” questions. Seeds of Equality is a “common ground” exercise I use when training all types of mental health providers. – We’re in a circle, each with a big handful of magic (lima) beans. These are tossed into a large planting pot in the center, when a person’s answer is “Yes” to the following questions:

Have you ever…


Felt overwhelmed or out of control?

Been labeled (…disabled, poor, by race, etc.)

Lost your liberty (hospitalization, incarceration, grounding, crappy summer camp, bad marriage, etc.)?

Made a really bad judgment?

Had trouble correcting better long after you knew better?

Made to feel ashamed of your feelings/judged for crying?

Wondered if you might be “crazy”?

Been annoyed at someone trying to get you to give up behavior you weren’t ready to give up? (smoking, diet, etc.)

Known that your answer for yourself was better than the answer a professional gave you?

Used something to fill an emotional void? (drugs, sex, food, romance novels, etc.)

Been frustrated or angry at someone’s control over your life?

Experienced a trauma that never fully left you?

Had any habits, behaviors or thoughts that wouldn’t stand up to public scrutiny?

Experienced a sense of powerlessness around something very important to you?

Acted like less than you are because someone believed you were less than you are?

Had to deal with comments in your head saying nasty, judgmental things about you or others?

Felt you hurt someone badly?

Believed there was no hope?

F.Y.I. Beans and laughter abound, every single time!

[There are also follow up “Sunshine” questions after the magic beans are planted: “Have you ever… Learned a new skill, like assertiveness, that made a remarkable improvement in your life? …Outgrown behavior that could have gotten you locked up? …Found capabilities in yourself you didn’t imagine you possessed? etc.]

I share this because I used to believe I was the only wounded one… the only one feeling anguish… the only one severely afflicted with my shameful collection of deficits…[See Handout: Meeting Imperfection] and certainly, people delivering services must have it all figured out… which must mean they are always healthy and happy! No. Wrong. Most people delivering services are “wounded healers.” They know pain too (though many have been trained not to say so!) So does just about everyone else! (The enlightened few relate embracing “what is” here and now… and that’s likely to include pain!)

In an earlier article I shared about imagining myself (the Love part) hugging myself (the aching/black hole part). Some years later, I discovered my first “pain baby.” I had an image of my pain as an infant that looked very much like an emaciated old man. I realized that I’d been rejecting that “baby” (feeling) for so long it was shriveled and starving to the point of death.

Seeing that baby awakened compassion in my heart and I started to talk to it: “Oh, you poor, poor thing! You’ve been all alone with that discomfort for sooooo long! No more! I’ll stay with you now… You don’t have to do this alone anymore.” And I wept with and for the baby… “I’ll be with you and go with you into every nook and cranny of that pain. How sorry I am that I rejected you… You had to take on all of this horrible feeling all by yourself. No more! I’m here now… We’ll feel this together until it’s gone….” And I brought the starving little pain baby to my breast (I had breast fed my son so this was natural), curled up in a fetal ball with it, and felt the pain baby’s pain until it went to sleep.

What a reunion! What a blessing. Not only does it feel like the baby is held by me… but I clearly feel we’re both held by Love. Something opens to me and through me… The wholeness of my experience is embraced and knows itself worthy to be embraced.

When I push away some aspect (baby) of my emotional life (like I did last week) I always lose out. I step away from worthiness… and invite greater suffering. Being with a feeling is never as debilitating as rejecting it. Being with a painful feeling has a poignant sweetness, almost like haunting musical notes playing inside me. This can feel intimate and deeply personal. I find myself shy of this, sometimes, too. (This touches me because it’s strikes me as a courtship between my very deepest nature and the “me” on the surface… that’s romantic!)

Since meeting my first general “pain” baby, I’ve made the acquaintance of several other babies… Shame, judgment… even my “demon baby.” They are all worthy of my time and attention. Sometimes I forget. Writing this helped me remember!

Note: After I met my own pain baby… I read a book by Alice Miller – about her healing journey (I think it was The Drama of the Gifted Child) in which she relates a very similar experience. Thich Nhat Hanh, a titan of spirit, Buddhist monk also mentions a similar concept.

It’s so nice to come out of hiding a little, and feel some of those feelings I was running from… Thank you again for providing me such opportunity to share spirit! Please get greedy with “reply” space and share your gems!

Love, Noelle

The “Journey Essentials” this article hits are…:

1) Belief Believing brilliantly – or at least better!

2) Energy Managing/releasing energy

3) Skills Gaining inter-personal skills/learning to be authentic

4) Presence Becoming ever more aware of NOW

5) Service Love!