We all experience pain in life. Heartache, loss, disappointment. Suffering is a part of the human condition.
When you’re in the depths of it, it can be hard to see how you can ever recover from your deep pain. The idea that you might one day be grateful for your disappointment and hurt seems unthinkable.
Yet, we always have a choice. Even in our pain we have a choice to make. We get to decide whether we will take the opportunity and grow, or whether we will let it consume us.
I by no means intend to make this seem simple; it may be the hardest thing you will ever do.
But your pain may also be the thing that pushes you towards your greatest personal breakthroughs.
As Glennon Doyle Melton said recently in her discussion with Oprah:
“Pain is a traveling professor and it goes and knocks on everyones door. The smartest people I know are the people who say, come in and don’t leave until you have taught me what I need to know.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
It is our hurt that can crack us open and let the light in. It is our pain that can help move us towards living a more deeply fulfilling life.
There is a psychological idea known as Post-Traumatic Growth. We are all familiar with its cousin, post-traumatic stress. Post-traumatic growth isn’t discussed as frequently, but it is the concept that explains how many of us take our pain and use it as the energy to grow psychologically.
“Post-traumatic growth is not about returning to the same life as it was previously experienced before a period of traumatic suffering; but rather it is about undergoing significant ‘life-changing’ psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world, that contribute to a personal process of change, that is deeply meaningful.” (Tedeshi & Calhoun, 2004).
Here are 3 things you can do to help you channel your deep pain into an opportunity for your greatest growth:
• Explore Your Feelings
You need to get in touch with your emotions, and be willing to feel them. To understand why you hurt, you have to dip deep into where the pain is stemming from. You may choose journaling, therapy or coaching – but you need to find some way to really explore and understand your feelings.
It is easy to say you are hurt because of heartbreak, but the question is, what part of the heartbreak is really causing you the pain? Is it that you feel like a failure? That you are grieving for a future that no longer exists? Or that you don’t feel worthy of love?
Express your emotions and work through them until you can find their root cause.
Self-reflection and personal understanding is a prerequisite to deeper psychological growth.
• Look for the Lesson
In order to grow from a painful experience, you need to focus your mind on looking for the lesson. This is one way of choosing to have a growth-mindset.
No matter what the situation, you will be able to uncover a lesson if you look hard enough. If you have been faced with an illness, perhaps it can teach you what you need to prioritize in life. If you are recovering from heartbreak, perhaps it can highlight your need to respect yourself more, so that you are not prone to letting other people disrespect you.
Looking for the lesson is about taking your power back. You can’t wallow indefinitely in the pain if you are to step up and grow. Once you’ve identified the root cause of your hurt, you have the power to look for what you can learn from the situation.
• Resolve to Change
Once you can acknowledge what your current situation might have to teach you, you need to resolve to change. Real positive growth must be followed by action. You have to do things differently. This is where your pain can truly turn into your greatest power.
It may be that you re-prioritize how you live your life, so that the things that really matter to you play a bigger part. Or you may resolve to focus on truly deep-down loving yourself before you begin to look for another romantic partner. Your actions will always be so personal to you.
Real growth comes from a willingness to change. You need to do things differently and use your pain as the thing that leads you on your path to growth.
It may be useful to have a coach or other professional help you work through these stages. We can accelerate our growth when we work with skilled professionals who can help guide us.
You can turn your pain into power. If you are willing to work out where the pain stems from, recognize there is a lesson to be learned, and turn your new knowledge into action, you will come through the suffering a brighter and stronger person.