Pain. We all, experience it, we see it, we feel it, and we pretty much hate it. Especially when it has to do with emotional pain. You see, pain, regardless of the source, is received by the brain and registered the same. Physical pain, emotional pain, is all the same to the brain. Think about this. Have you ever been cooking and then have the smoke detector go off, even when there’s no fire? Yet the smoke detector receives the signal that there’s smoke, and then does its thing to warn us. Why does it go off? Because it detects something in the air that just isn’t quite right. Yet we don’t see that there’s anything wrong. Or we just kind of ignore the fact that maybe we burned dinner just a tad. Well, okay maybe a lot. Have you ever just reached up and turned it off, or even unplugged it because you were annoyed with the noise? Yeah, I’ve done it too. I’m guilty.
So why do we just turn it off? Is it just because we don’t want to hear it? Because we think we have the smoke source under control? Sooner or later it becomes a habit, or we just kind of ignore the smoke alarm until it stops making the sounds. And that’s when it becomes dangerous to our health. The smoke detector is placed to warn us if there is danger so that we can make the appropriate decisions and preparations to avoid and deal with the danger. Our bodies are programmed with our own smoke detector, a pain detector. When we feel pain, our bodies are trying to tell us that we may be in danger. If we have a toothache, maybe we go to the dentist. If we have a stomach pain or a broken arm or leg, we go to the doctor. Our pain detector allows us to protect our body from dangers and from harm.
But what about emotional pain? When we experience a loss, we feel grief and sadness. If someone says something horrible about us or tells us hurtful things about ourselves, we feel anger and frustration. If plans are made and we are not invited to something that other people are experiencing, we feel abandoned and ignored. There are times we feel anxious when doing everyday things such as driving in heavy traffic, walking into a large public shopping center, or even when being required to reach out and be social with others. All these feelings are part of the pain detector, which detects the amount of pain that we have the potential to experience or are experiencing. Most often, it’s this emotional pain which comes from the chronic presence of these hurtful, painful feelings which lead our pain detectors to go off quietly, then become louder and louder, until eventually they’re screaming. In fact, C.S. Lewis says,
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.”
God placed our pain detectors for a reason. It is not that God makes us suffer through pain. He uses pain to communicate to us, to grab our attention. Emotional pain is no different, and is the pain that God is shouting to us through. Therefore, it becomes important to become aware of our pain detectors, our feelings. How are you feeling right now? How have you been feeling the past few days? Weeks? Months? The last year? An accumulation of painful feelings indicate that something needs to be attended to.
“At night it pierces my bones within me, And my gnawing pains take no rest.”
This is the first in a series on pain. Stay tuned to the next part in the series…
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor