Heart break. Disappointment. Failure. Separation. Grief.
If you’re like many others, we’ve been taught to suck it up, distract ourselves, suppress or even push past the pain.
The “no pain, no gain” mentality tells us that pain is a part of the process, but that growth is always preceded with pain. That’s not necessarily true. And, that isn’t the same as turning towards the pain and embracing it.
Being kind & gentle to the pain brings about the strength and resilience that we all crave. Staying open to what the pain is showing us - about ourselves, about another, about a situation - isn’t easy, but it’s SOOO worth it.
That doesn’t mean dwell or always live in pain. It means shortening the time you experience the pain and moving on in a more connected, authentic way.
An example of what it looks like to turn towards pain is my most recent ending of a relationship.
I was talking to and dating, a man long-distance* for the better part of a year. We are from the same city and he lived out of town, but we met at a local event where I was presenting on passion in relationships (amongst a sea of tech and business focused discussions). A bit of time passed after that initial meeting and when we reconnected it felt easy, fun, and sparked curiosity, so we wanted to keep exploring the connection.
*Side note: LDR’s are hard for ANYONE and often starting that way is even more of a challenge. However, LDR’s can be a great way to deepen intimacy without bypassing directly to physical intimacy. You can learn a lot about how you each show up and the kind of creative effort you’re willing to put into co-creating a relationship.
We talked about our intentions and built - to our surprise and sometimes delight - a refreshing and complicated friendship/soulful connection that was new to both of us. There were moments we showed up playfully, moments that were deep and uncomfortable, and places we hid - where we were more afraid of honesty than courageously bold. All of that led to a crossroads of sorts and we found ourselves wanting different things without a complimentary way forward.
I was heartbroken as I felt in love in a way I hadn’t experienced before - an appreciation had grown for the cadence of our connection and the sometimes frustrating differences became a reliable playground for expressing love. There were joyous embraces and yet places where we still held back. We were at different points of readiness for something more and held different expectations of what it meant to leap and be “all in” together - with me leading the charge of faithful abandon.
The point in sharing this story is that it’s so easy to blame another for an ending or breakup (especially when it seems one-sided), but turning toward the pain (that comes from both sides) as a teacher, helps you discern the growth opportunity. It would be so easy for me to be mad, annoyed, angry, but that does both of us a disservice.
Instead, by facing & turning towards the heartbreak - FEELING the pain of rejection, loss of the love, friendship & kindness we cultivated, the break in a potential future - my heart can stay open. I can see the complexity of love and beauty while also taking responsibility for my part in the ending (miscommunications, un-voiced assumptions in how he saw “us”, maybe rushing steps because of insecurities instead of surrendering to perfect timing, etc). By exploring the depths of pain and owning my responsibility, it allows me to feel appreciation for what we had and how we both showed up to the unknown.
When there are endings - in relationships, jobs, really any situation - neither side is right or wrong, realizing which can feel incomplete or unsatisfying. However, there can simply be a misalignment.
By facing the pain of that misalignment you get to move on as a WHOLE being, instead of rejecting the parts of yourself the other saw as “wrong”. You get to honor the love you exchanged and the joy you gained. Turning toward the pain gives you strength to open more to the love you don’t need to search for and learn where else you can grow.
An ending doesn’t negate the good, it just sets you in the direction to up level into what’s next.
So, where in your life can you turn towards the pain - instead of suppressing it, turning away, or ignoring it?
Where can you heal stronger, be more open or find the connection - instead of focusing on separation? Not to fill a void, but to experience a deeply, truly intimate place within yourself.