The Usefulness of Pain

Pain Provides the Energy and Courage Necessary for Transformation

My client: It’s funny how major fear can help you overcome your phobias!

There’s a lot of wisdom in your statement.  The survival strategies of a difficult childhood, mostly variations on “fight”, “flight”, and “freeze,” sit like a block of cement encasing our souls and limiting our freedom and self-expression. Our egos, the part of us responsible for keeping that block of cement in place, says “change is dangerous”, “change will lead to punishment, loss of love, or abandonment”, “change makes things worse”, and “don’t rock the boat.” In an unfortunate life, there is no release from this prison.  But in a lucky life the pain (fear, anxiety, sense of constriction, etc) slowly increases until it is greater than the fear of change, which, as you know, is great.

Until we have done some healing work around our core wounds, we still feel like children…roughly the age when our wounding occurred.  To a child, punishment, loss of love, and abandonment are equated with death!

The strategies we came up with as children to survive, even though they helped us way back then, have long-since become obsolete and dysfunctional. But to break out of the prison, the pain those strategies cause must become greater than our fear of death.  We must become willing to face death, if necessary, rather than continue to endure living a life fearfully, as other than our true selves.

In truth, it is not who-we-truly-are who must die, but only who-we-thought-we-were…who we needed to be to survive back then as children.

There is another life for us.  If you have a religious belief or have ever had a spiritual epiphany, you have some clues to this.  For those lacking this faith, here’s a suggestion.

Over the last generation, modern medicine has become adept at bringing back to life people who were medically dead.  These individual’s hearts have stopped for several minutes, or the organs have shut down, or their brains have died of oxygen lack.  Medically, they were dead, yet eventually, they have returned to life from these near-death experiences (NDEs) with amazing stories of worlds of light and beings of profound love. In this world, from their description, concepts of “shame”, “bad”, and “forgiveness” are irrelevant as it became self-evident to them that they had never for a moment been out of the grace of their Creator.  There are growing numbers of these tales, well into the thousands by now, and many have written of their experiences eloquently. They share in common that their lives afterwards have taken on new purpose, love, and goodness. Regrets, shame, and self-doubt largely left their lives. Even those who were complete atheists before have returned from their journey with no doubt whatsoever of the continuance of consciousness after death, nor of the existence of some Benevolent Universal Intelligence from which no one has never been separated, even when they were unaware of it.

If you read with an open mind and see the profound changes in these people’s lives as the result of their NDE, it is very difficult to dismiss these tales as mere hallucinations of a dying brain. If you’re not acquainted with this growing body of literature, here are some starting places: Dying to be Me, Proof of Heaven, Life After Life, and Walking in the Garden of a Loving God.

What if it is really true, as NDE’s and most religions teach, that God/Spirit/The Intelligent Universe really does absolutely love you?  What if it really is true that this Power sees your shame and the things you fault about yourself as nothing but mere misunderstandings, borne of mistreatment by immature parents when you were young and vulnerable, or of trauma later in life?   What if God/Spirit/The Universe is never condemning, never withholding of grace and love, and only wishes to help you correct the misunderstandings which create suffering for you?

Personally I am quite certain that this is really the way things are!

Oh, I know personally very well that, for those of us who haven’t had an dramatic NDE or a powerful religious experience, actually living these ideals can seem very difficult in the face of our old mental and emotional habits.  I too, cannot do this all the time and still slip into self-created suffering.

But what is called for is not an NDE, nor some rare spiritual power, nor 20 years of meditation practice.  What is needed is for us to first seek whatever help necessary to calm our frazzled nerves and anxious bodies  This is key because a body in fight, flight, or freeze prevents a higher spiritual perspective.

Once we are less anxious or frozen, it becomes possible to make the choice to stop all of our survival strategies and see what remains.  In this moment, rather than regretting the past, worrying about the future, and defending our defenses, for just one second at a time we can see what is here.  We may notice the rain, the taste of our tea, the sounds around us, the experience of the moment in our bodies….the miracle of breath and heartbeat.  To quote an old movie title….we can participate in “the unbearable lightness of being”.

I have not the slightest doubt that, one day, in this life or the next, we will all come to this joy-filled awareness.  So…let us forego the suffering we keep creating for ourselves…which surely God/Spirit/The Universe must suffer to see us suffer.  One second at a time, let us find this choice sooner rather than later.

Your comments, questions, and stories are welcome below. I will respond.

Do you have private questions about the body-mind connection or about recovering from trauma, loss, or abuse? Click here to leave me a private message.

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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing® to help people release trauma, abuse, and loss. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at

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    • Betty2013

      This post really resonates so strongly. I have had PTSD most of my life without realizing it, and it’s only because it was triggered so badly a few months back that the pain got too bad to continue without seeking the help I needed that I’m now really healing. After several false starts with practitioners who just couldn’t support me, I am blessed that that pain led me to working with Paul. I’m now breaking free of the chains of the past that have bound me for over 30 years. As much as I would never choose to go through what I did again, I am now at a point where I feel thankful to it for leading me to the magical experiences that are unfolding as a result of working with a practitioner who not only really cares, but has the skill and wisdom and presence to help me discover the real magic in the world.

      In the post Paul writes, “What is needed is for us to first seek whatever help necessary to calm our frazzled nerves and anxious bodies This is key because a body in fight, flight, or freeze prevents a higher spiritual perspective.” This is so so true. While most of us seem to, we don’t have to wait for it to get so bad before getting the support we need. We were hurt in relationship and that’s how we heal. I feel so thankful that things got so bad that I had to find Paul, and at the same time hope that others find their way to working with him without it having to get so bad first.

    • Thank you for your contribution, Betty, and for doing your courageous healing work.