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Pain managment and (conflict) transformation

My ongoing experience of pain taught me to see suffering as an invaluable form transformation. Suffering begins when I am not at peace with the pains. When I fear them or when I lose control and have no or very limited response options. I see pain as an energy and state which conveys different messages. Sometimes it’s a warning that I should change behavior. Other times it's a warning and reminder of a deficiency. Some pain has an encouraging message to be more loving and gentle towards myself. Pain messages can be alerts to trigger a different response pattern. It can be a whispering hint of a storm to come giving me time to prepare. Whatever the message, pains are not the central aspect of the story of pain, it’s having options to choose how I respond.

As William Ernst Henley beautifully phrases it in his famous poem “Invictus”.
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

I have chosen to see pain as a trigger, a motivation, a source of inspiration, a challenge, sometimes a nuisance but always an opportunity to grow in love and humility and power to learn to be the “captain of my soul”. Yes, I wish I had less physical pain. Of course I would rather not have these chronic, life-changing and life-threatening pains. But I can’t change that. What I can do is change my attitude, perspective and integrate the pains into the reality of having many stories in my life all shaping this ever evolving version of “Mark Moser”.

When I a power-less and pain has a grip of my body, instead of “fighting” pain I try and go into the pain even deeper trying to understand both the reality and message but then also to go into the energy of the pain in which I often find a less dark place. I sometimes get a glimpse of a source in this energy which I believe is a source of love and life. I’m not saying that pain is love. But if I follow it’s path and go beyond what I perceive as “something gone wrong” making this energy so destructive … I can sometimes find peace and see somewhere in the far distance a place of love and wholeness.

The path of suffering is the fastest one to transformation. We don't do shadow work well, because struggling with our dark side is humiliating. We've been trained to compete and to win. When winning is the only goal, we can't admit to anything that looks like failure, or even allow basic vulnerability. (Richard Rohr, Daily thoughts, 24.5.2016).

In order to not be destroyed by pain and inner conflict I need to be vulnerable. For only in this state does the transformative power of pain reach my inner places and not turn myself into hardness. It’s an ongoing process which I compare to the work of a potter working the clay. Once the clay is hard one loses the ability of forming it. Once my pain turns hard – is not touched and acknowledged, not processed and understood – then it turns into hardness and this is suffering in it’s worst degree. The suffering turns cold and hard. Edging it’s way into my heart and being causing damage (collateral damage). And so I work pain, massaging it, breathing life into it. Being gentle to the pain and letting it flow through and out of me. Permeating every part of me and not resisting.

I see our wounds and places of pain as a hiding place of the divine or the creator. She holds her presence like a drop of water in our most vulnerable places giving us “water of life” into which we may tap.

When I compare this to outer conflicts I have encountered I see many parallels. Conflicts should be assessed and acknowledged so we can understand the meaning behind them … or to acknowledge the lack of meaning. Many conflicts turn destructive and damaging because the early signs and messages were not understood. I am not saying all conflicts demand an intervention except that many should be seen and noticed in order to be able to classify and appraise whether a response of some kind may be necessary.

The experience of pain and learning from this has helped me change my perception on conflicts. I used to fear conflict and see them as something “bad” and mostly dangerous. Therefore my response was to flee from them or then to respond with an activist approach of trying to “solve” them.

To close my paper let me quote Leonard Cohen who says so beautifully in his song, Anthem:
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Our wounds are the only things humbling enough to break our attachment to our false self and make us yearn for our True Self. (Richard Rohr, Life is hard, 2016).

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