Dealing with Pain…

…from the other Side


No one really likes pain – whether physical or emotional pain. I am actually really bad when it comes to pain. I couldn’t have my ears pierced until I was 22, because I was afraid of the pain.
I have also experienced other forms of pain and even though I can’t say that I always manage to conquer it, I, at least, have different strategies of reacting to it:

Crying, for example, always helps, shouting – I normally don’t do that and if I shout it would be followed by crying anyway, cuddling my dog – if she doesn’t decide that it is too hot, too uncomfortable or simply to cheesy, asking for a hug – and don’t worry I am not running around on the street asking strangers for a hug.

However, what about those people around you who see your pain, live with you and your pain? If you consider them family and friends and care about them, then they probably care about you – as family or friend – as well. And it is really hard to see someone suffering especially if that one is close to your heart. And especially if the pain and suffering are not rather easily cured with a plaster or a cup of tea.

Naturally, most people try to “make the pain go away”. “Watch your favourite movie. Grab a cup of coffee. Go for a walk. Don’t think about it too much.” We are used to be in a happy state of mind or better, everyone tells us that we should be in a happy state of mind. Just watch the ads on TV. And if you feel rather down – hey, here is a playstation, here is the newest movie on DVD, just buy some new clothes, that will make you feel better.

Unfortunately, these advices – even if they come from the heart – have the opposite effect. You feel even more depressed if, despite the coffee, new clothes and your favourite movie, the world still doesn’t seem to be a friendly place to you. You wonder: I shouldn’t feel that way. I should be grateful and happy. I am not, therefore, something is wrong with me.

By trying to snap with with the finger to make everything alright we overlook an important thing: pain demands to be felt. (Okay, I stole this line from a novel, but it is true.) By pushing someone “just to see the bright aspects of his/her life” we – unconsciously – deny his/her emotions and thoughts when actually simply acknowledging the suffering would be a good starting point. And we don’t do this, because we really think the other’s pain is minor, nothing to worry about or ridiculous. We actually cannot stand seeing someone suffering. It is hard for the person who suffers, but it is also hard for the people standing by to simply endure it.

I am pretty bad in enduring. I can’t even stand watching, hearing or even reading about people suffering in Tibet, Israel/Palestine or West Papua – even though I have no personal connection to any of them! So you can imagine how I react when it comes to family and friends…But I have learned that sometimes I don’t need to give an advice, I don’t need to give my opinion, I don’t need to book an adventure holiday to provide a different environment – sometimes I only need to acknowledge that life sucks, at least at that point in time, and that I understand that nothing really can improve the situation in a day or two.
And then, the only thing I can do is to be there, even in silence. And this helplessness will cause suffering for me as well. But I think this is the meoment when the saying actually becomes reality:

A problem shared is a problem halved.

(Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid.)

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