The problem isn’t pain, my mother once said, the problem is our belief that it needs to be managed. At first listen that seems like such a cold statement. But, in truth, it’s not. It’s simply an acknowledgment of a condition.
Pain is our body telling us that something is wrong. By over-managing pain, we silence our bodies and thus push into the background the message we should have heard. A woman ignores the pain and ignores the lump until her cancer is no longer treatable, a man ignores the twinge until the tendon tears so badly surgery is necessary. The lesson there is do not manage- treat the cause.
Emotional pain is much the same. We like to say, “I’m feeling blue,” when in reality we are two steps from the edge. We like to pretend that depression, anxiety and all other manner of mental ills just need to be managed the way we manage our physical pain. I’m not saying that there is no such thing as mental illness, pure and simple, no question- there is, there definitely is. The question I ask myself is how much of this real illness is birthed from our ignoring the source until it is too great.
I think we ignore because we fear. We fear that our blues and blahs are too much for us to handle, so we shove them back until they are in fact enormous. We fear that our anxiety is ruling us, which makes us anxious, so we tune it out. We fear our hyperactivity and distraction would need medication that would deaden us, so we sit on our hands. In the meantime, think of how much good we could do simply by naming our problems, by confronting them, by giving them shape and color and tone.
I have a theory. My theory is that our pain starts out as ephemeral. It is a shadow, a smear on our consciousness. It clouds our vision and tricks us into thinking it is bigger and more unmanageable than it truly is. So we ignore it, and grant it power. If we could just focus on it, scrape it together, find it’s true shape and color, we wouldn’t be so afraid.
We need to stop letting it be like a fingerprint on the lens of our vision, and see clearly. See what is really out there, what is really bogging us down. See that it’s just the world, the world we know and love. We can deal with this. We can be here, together. We can squeegee each other’s consciousness if need be.