Let me start with this – I am not a big fan of pain. When given a choice to use local anesthetic or gas at my dentist I always ask if a medically induced coma is an option. I observed this pattern of avoidance in school and always responded to the carrot keeping a respectful distance away from the stick. Science with me on this one – numerous researches indicate that when it comes to learning we perform better with positive reinforcement and an absence of punishment (search YouTube for the super Mario effect Ted talk).
Yet learning from painful experiences has a dramatic effect in our development. A hero journey story will always have a turning point with the protagonist in a complete shambles either mentally, emotionally or physically trying to find their way out of the predicament.
Gautama Buddha, Colonel Sanders, Nelson Mandela seemingly unrelated famous of the world had one thing in common – an ability to learn and grow strong from their most painful experience. There are billions of unknown to the public people with their own personal victory emerging from dire circumstances. We become heroes of our personal journey. And the main catalyst of that growth is pain – a suffering that pushes you beyond your limits.
Painful experiences made me a better writer, worker, coach and friend. I wrote my best articles in the time of uncertainty during big changes in my life. Because of my pain I could relate and sympathize with people in the same circumstances. In creative space artists and musicians turn negative experiences to a positive phenomenon for people to enjoy. Broken heart stories sit on the wall of fame praised equally high as songs of happiness.
In some cases this suffering is psychological and can indicate that a person is undergoing a new development. Psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Twersk talks about the way lobsters grow. Lobsters is a soft tissue creature living in a hard shell. Becoming uncomfortable as they grow in size lobsters shed their old shell and hide under a rock until a newly formed shell grows and hardens.
Just like lobsters us humans have to let go of old habits and beliefs that kept us comfortable until they no longer do. Running away and denial of the pain stops the development. And that is why mistakes tend to repeat themselves if we do not learn from them.
Recurring unhappy relationships, career issues and life challenges are those lessons. They may not be obvious to the person experiencing them and this is why pain becomes a great teacher. You may ignore red light and keep crossing the road unsafely until one day police issues you a fine for your misbehavior. If that did not help a bigger fine or near miss accident will set a change in motion.
Modern research on stress confirms that we can learn a thing or two from crustaceans. Tolerable amount of challenges when coupled with a good cause is necessary for our enjoyment of living – the very thing that we are here on this planet to accomplish. During period of change just like lobsters we let go of old habits and trying on new ones. At this juncture we are still uncertain of this new way of living. Is it worse than before? Will others take advantage of us?
We have to trust the process, be gentle to ourselves in this challenging time. I would also encourage you not to hide your vulnerability. Unlike with lobsters showing your vulnerability indicates that you trust and feel secure with people close to you.
Recognizing that this is a learning experience and asking yourself questions such as “what is expected of me in this situation?” and “what is a meaning of this?” can lead to eye opening discoveries.
A few years back I felt apathy and dissatisfaction with my career. I realised that one of my values was in conflict with my job at the time. The job became a comfortable resting point leading to a stagnation without satisfying my need for continuous development. Moving to another role was difficult but staying in the same situation became harder and harder every day.
I started looking for options by having informal catch ups with colleagues and asking them what they did in their daily jobs. Some of those stories resonated with me and I found a role that was suitable for my personality and aspirations leading for the passion reigniting itself.
In some strange way a recipe of success in life is an ability to love and seek pain as a golden mine of learning. Unfortunately for lobsters getting bigger is size make them more attractive to seafood lovers but we humans do not suffer the same fate.
I would like to leave you with two questions:
- What old shell are you carrying that no longer fits you?
- Is there a lesson that you are running away from?
Jay Martynov is a technology manager and a life coach helping busy professionals and business owners to manage stress and build a happy life filled with purpose. His coaching includes understanding of behavioral patterns using enneagram, effective daily routines and meditation. You can find more details on Jay’s website www.jaymartynov.com and Instagram.
Image courtesy of Paul Green.