Monday, December 01, 2008

Delicious Pain, Part 2

(Catch Part 1, HERE.)

What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

There is the kind of pain that hits us from the outside. An illness. A setback. An unexpected failure. Yes, you bleed, but also learn what it takes to heal. The next time you'll be more prepared, maybe you'll navigate around the pain altogether.

But that's not the kind of pain I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the kind of pain you carry deep. The kind of pain that infuses and becomes part of you. The kind of pain you might not even recognize as pain, because you feel its mirror most keenly, the fierce, sweet desire to soothe it.

So, what do you do when you realize such a pain is haunting you, and you decide that you no longer want to be driven by it? To be repeating the cycle of discontent and satisfaction?

Is it enough to see the pain for what it is? Can you cure it by just stopping?

I don't think so. I don't think that's realistic. When you experience a high, sooner or later, you'll be drawn to repeat it.

So what to do.

I believe that the only "solution" is to replace the high with other highs. More healthy ones. I use the term solution loosely, because I'm not entirely sure that it ever goes away, except perhaps with a long passage of time.

Someone can't decide what highs to choose. That's sure to fail. You can't just get religion, or take up knitting, or whatever half-assed suggestion might be thrown your way. You know what highs are close seconds to your delicious pain. Those are the ones you need to concentrate on (assuming they're healthy), at the same time you need to keep reminding yourself of the harms your delicious pain causes when you feel drawn to it.

For example, since my delicious pain ultimately pushes me to rely on other people's draw to me to soothe it, my replacement highs need to be more self-driven. Rather than chase the wonderful feeling when someone is drawn to me, I need to focus on when I feel wonderful highs experiencing something alone--a reflective moment in the forest, finishing a fine piece of writing, playing music. By reducing focus on others, I can then enjoy more healthy relationships with people.

The truth is that both highs come from within. Other people don't really do anything for me. It's me allowing myself to rely on them to drive my happiness that's the problem. When I feel the pull of delicious pain, I try to imagine it for what it is, beautiful on the surface, but easy to see the rot underneath when I turn it over. The joy is barely skin deep.


The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

On a cerebral level, I know you're right. But the mind is also awash in hormones and their receptors, pure visceral biology. I don't believe you can ever extricate yourself from outside interference. No matter if I tell myself how irrational it is, other people will always have a tremendous influence on my own happiness. Even though deep down, the only person who can truly make me happy... is me.

Catvibe said...

I think this is correct, and why I continue to flow my energy into creative pursuits. That irresistible 'draw' towards someone comes now once every few years and I am extremely suspicious. I should say that this happens with friends too, not just lovers, and the pains that cause them and how I behave are the same without the addition of the sexual component.

Your last paragraph reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz' (The Four Agreements) book The Mastery of Love. We simply can not find our own happiness in someone else, but knowing that at the cellular level allows us to really let the love flow freely.

Sarah Hina said...

All good ideas, Jason. Such dogged self-awareness is the most reliable path we have for breaking these endless cycles.

Having a desire to connect with people is fine, and healthy. It's the internal pressures we apply to that relationship that causes inner, and external, pathos. Letting go of those personal expectations and needs is so, so difficult because, when answered, their rewards are so heady and validating. But we've already talked about that. ;)

Releasing those easy pleasures may allow us to find something more lasting, and freeing, in that place where no one else can really touch.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it all about trial and error to see what (in life) causes us great pain and also great pleasure. We add it all to our list as we go through life and over time can recognise what the triggers are? At least most of the time?

Anonymous said...

EOH, you speak to how deeply these patterns are cut. I agree that reacting to others, even needing them, cannot be excised once it exists in us. I'm wondering if our behavior can be modified just enough to make our drives more constructive. I don't think my delicious pain will ever leave me entirely, and I don't think I want it to.

Catvibe, once you drill down on your pain, expose it, and fight it, I think a lot of confusion ensues. How much is too much? What is healthy intensity and desire as opposed to addictive? Are these questions even answerable? I'm so glad to hear your thoughts! This is the first time I've heard of someone being motivated in the same way I have.

Sarah, that balance is so razor-thin, I think, but that won't stop me for a minute from trying to achieve it. I still want that desire. I want that unique, precious mystery that other people bring. I just don't want to be secretly destroyed by it.

Aggie, yes, I do think learning our pleasure sources is trial and error. Hopefully, we each have already experienced a few that we can turn to. The future is open to more!

Vesper said...

Oh, the much coveted and feared dopamine…

I think you’re right about a way out… if we “carve” new, safer maybe, neural paths and gently lead the brain along them, then we will take less often the older ones…

Chris Eldin said...

I don't have much to add, but I'm glad you're sharing these pieces. I'm connecting with them in a way I can't describe. Especially the last one. But I agree with EOH. I might find the strength to share something personal on my blog. But not yet. Your posts are helping.

Anonymous said...

Vesper, you've said it much better than I did. :)

Chris, I'm moved to know that you helped by these posts. Or if not helped, per se, knowing that you aren't alone in your struggles. Thank you. :)