The pain might not fuel your journey

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Dear Friend,
There’s a quote by Kenji Miyazawa that says, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
You think Kenji didn’t know what he was talking about. Not only can’t you do anything about this pain. You can’t even do anything with it. It’s like a heavy useless marble block just sitting there. Actually it’s not like marble. Because at least with marble, you can chip pieces off and turn it into a sculpture. But this pain you can’t translate into any form of art, because you can’t comprehend it yourself so you just carry it with you day in, day out, hoping that one day you will wake up and it will no longer be there.
Maybe by then your threshold for pain would have shifted so you don’t feel it anymore, or maybe the pain would have in fact simply gone. Just disappeared. But does it really go away? Or does it remain in a more dormant form waiting for the smallest thing -word, gesture, breeze – to trigger it when you least expect it?
We are all wounded. It’s part of being human. And yet the human spirit is resilient. It makes you go on even when you feel like giving up. It makes you dig your way out when you’ve been buried under crumbling stones of despair.
We are all wounded, but maybe we need to think of ourselves in terms of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing cracks with pieces of gold so that the broken is more beautiful than the new.
And the pain…it might not fuel your journey, but it does serve a purpose.
E. K. Ross says, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

How to stop hurting – part 2

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So the post “How to stop hurting” has been one of my popular posts in the past. I don’t really understand why. Funny enough, reading it again makes me realize that I sorta disagree with myself. Nowadays, I am more in the team of ‘care less to stop hurting’. What happened? Life happened.

But I realized the reason why a lot of people land on that post because they simply ask Dr. Google, “How to stop hurting.” I guess the world is filled with pain, and our ability to feel pain makes us normal. Just a disclaimer before I proceed, I’m not talking about grief and the sort of pain one goes through after they lose a loved one. I’m talking about the low to medium sort of pain that happens when someone else hurts you intentionally or not. I’m also not talking about self-inflicted pain. If you’re suffering from that, then seek professional help. So how to stop hurting?

1) Understand why you’re hurting. Then ask why five more times. Even though this is a necessary step, it’s mostly the one ignored. A lot of times we think we know why we’re hurting, but we don’t. For instance, we might feel pain because of something somebody did to us, but if we ask why five times and dig deep into the crux of the matter, we discover that the real reason we’re hurting is because of something within us; maybe it’s our wounded ego or some unrealistic expectation. We’ve mentioned it before; expectations usually lead to disappointments, so while setting expectations, the two parties need to be aware of them. Then if the other party breaks a promise or disappoints you in some way, get hurt. Until then it’s really your fault your expectations were too high.

Deconstructing the situation with a friend who can provide a different perspective might help. This is not the time to turn to your homie who would agree with everything you say or do. You need someone more brutally honest to help you answer the question, “Am I right to get hurt?”

A lot of times why people hurt is because they have very vivid imaginations, and they attach meaning from other people’s words and actions. Be it through inference or extrapolation or maybe poor vision, the day they realize that the meaning they’ve attached has no real place in reality, they end up getting hurt at the (usually clueless) person. Being clear about the facts is sometimes necessary. Ask yourself, Real or Not Real? What is true, what is false? Am I justified?

2) After establishing that your hurt is justified, allow yourself to express it. I don’t know what about society that says that guys shouldn’t cry. I’ve discussed it earlier in “Men vs. women who should cry more”. I know how tempting it is to repress your feelings (girls and guys), but repressed feelings are just like repressed thoughts (the famous white bear study in psychology); the more you try to repress your feelings, the worse it gets in the long-run. Sometimes repressed feelings can manifest themselves in destructive ways. At other times, they only lead to you spending time and emotional energy on something for longer than you should.

So as John Green writes, “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”

That’s what I personally call the calorific value of pain. You just have to let the pain run its course, you need to feel it, express it, give it time if you have to. One useful thing you can do with pain is to use it in your creative works. Whether you write or paint, pain can be a very powerful driving force for action. So make use of it.

3) Learn the lesson attached to it (if applicable). Sometimes painful situations such as these show us something that is wrong with us. It’s not always ‘them’ who are wrong, even though we’d like to think it that way. So if it guides us to a character flaw we have that needs to be removed then maybe we need to work on that. But sometimes there is nothing enlightening about these situations. Someone wrongs us, we feel pain. It sucks. Life goes on. So…

4) Move on. No, really, really move on. A lot of times, we think we are over that painful incident, when we really are not. Whether it’s through the dominos effect or the trickle effect, the situation can change us. It can lead to something that leads something that leads to something that ends up with us changing in a big way. The trickle effect is when ideas and beliefs derived from the situation infiltrate themselves into our lives more subtly so we see others differently, or we see ourselves differently. Pain affects us, and maybe that’s where its power lies and maybe that’s why we tend to fear it and avoid it. But is it always a bad thing?

Moving on just means putting one step in front of the other, busying ourselves in things that take our mind away from the source of the pain. Oh yeah, that would help too; to physically move away from the source of the pain.

Finally, one thing that helps is to fill our lives with hope again. Life is made up of ups and downs. We are all very aware of that. Yet why is it easy for us to rapidly forget the ups and feel entrapped in the downs?


A Journey of Revenge

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“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Digging two graves is a metaphorical way to telling you that even if you were as alive as you used to be when you started on that journey, you are no longer the same person. Revenge consumes you and it fills your mind to hurting the people who hurt you but the sad truth is that once you’re at the end of the journey, revenge doesn’t always make you feel any better. If anything you might feel even worse, because you would feel like you’ve lost the innocent you somewhere along the way. And sometimes this path can be filled with so much destruction that you can’t help but let other innocent people pay the price for your so-called satisfaction. And then those secondary victims might start on their own journey of revenge against  you so that the vicious cycle keeps on going on and on and on.

A better alternative is to actually induce guilt in whoever has hurt you by being extra kind to them. Or better still, to forgive and to move on with your life. Because with time you might realize that if you had spent half the effort to build your life instead of destroying the lives of others, then your life could be filled with so much beauty that it makes you forget whatever had passed before.

Let pain breed compassion and not more pain.

(c) Ross Griff
(c) Ross Griff

Those Clingy Memories

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Some memories just cling onto you wherever you go. The farther you try to walk away from, the more often you tend to bump into them. Sometimes they spring out of the blue when you least expect them; upon a whiff of perfume or the sound of a pen clicking incessantly against the table or the rainbow arc of a sprinkler’s water falling upon green grass.
Maybe you need to learn to carry a pen or paint brush, to write about it or flesh it out in water colors. And at first you might feel like you’re bleeding on paper because whatever this memory is, it might be as part of you a tissue or organ.
But the more you let it out of your system, the lighter you feel, the easier you can breathe again. The monster hiding within you is transmitted onto a piece of paper that can be torn, burned, laminated or framed.
And then you realize that it does get better.
Some time, some day.