Pain is necessary. As much as we hate pain and desire not to ever have to endure it, pain is a necessary part of our life. In part 1, the idea of our pain detector was introduced to help us gauge and determine our levels of pain we are experiencing. Our ability to cope with emotional pain is essential to our mental health, and that’s where our pain detector comes in. Our mental health begins to falter when our ability to read, understand, and process our pain becomes distorted.
Did you know that emotional pain can manifest as physical pain? When we get anxious, we can often feel nauseous, sweaty, and feel faint. Anxiety also initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome in which our adrenaline begins pumping, causing us to want to either fight or run away. Physical symptoms. When our ability to cope with that pain becomes overwhelming and that pain gets out of control, it is a huge red flag that the pain needs to be attended to and treated. In mental health, this often means going to see a counselor to utilize talk therapy to build coping skills, It often means going to see a psychiatrist to discuss the options of medications to bring our brains back down to efficient and normal-for-us levels. High levels of stress for long periods of time can affect our ability to hear our pain detector, especially when we ignore the cause of that stress.
Here are some ways which pain is not only necessary, but is useful:
- Emotional pain allows us to learn more information about ourselves, such as our ability to cope with stress, and brings us to an awareness of thoughts, activities, and behaviors which may be causing us distress. It gives us a warning that something needs to change to eliminate those bad feelings. Chronic pain from consistent negative thoughts, for example. This needs to be attended to.
- Emotional pain points out that we are alive, that we are functioning properly, that we are feeling what God has allowed for us to feel. When we experience feelings of numbness, we find we don’t enjoy life, it’s as if we are walking zombies. No one wants to be a walking zombie devoid of emotion. It’s often a coping mechanism to avoid emotional pain and emotion. Feelings of being a walking zombie need to be attended to.
- Emotional pain draws us closer to God. When in times of desperation, we are reminded that we have a God which controls everything. Often, He must remind us that we are not in control, no matter how much our distorted reality allows us to believe so. Recall Job, who lost almost everything he had in his life, other than his own life. In fact, Job said, “my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 45:5). Although not the most desirable way to draw closer to God, this is how He shouts to us in our pain. What is God trying to tell us?
- Emotional pain is evidence that God is refining and developing us, bringing to our awareness our own strengths and weaknesses that God has given us. Through our pain can we then relate to and see the pain of others, to be able to walk with them in their own darkness. It is through our emotional pain that draws us closer to one another, to allow us compassion for one another, to love one another as we were commanded to do.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
God speaks to us through our pain. What is He saying? How are we responding?
Be on the lookout for Pain, Part 3…
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor