Notes by Michael Whelan SM
1. Pain can have its genesis and manifestation in any or all of three dimensions:
2. There are different appropriate ways of dealing with pain. We might, for example, deal with the physical pain of arthritis by taking a pain killer but this would hardly be appropriate for the pain of guilt. In these notes I am addressing specifically the psychological and spiritual pain.
3. Pain in one dimension might be masked by pain in another dimension. For example, physical back pain might in fact be more about my psychological loneliness or spiritual longing than my back as such.
4. There are two common reactions – as distinct from responses – to pain:
5. Unacknowledged and undealt with pain is almost certainly the trigger for most of our inappropriate behaviours. The “problem of obesity”, for example, is in some measure at least a matter of unacknowledged or undealt with pain. To deal with it as if it were simply or even primarily a matter of diet is probably not going to be helpful in the long run. Similarly with our addictive behaviours and those behaviours that cause conflicts in relationships. Listen for the roots of it. The question, “What is happening?” is probably the most practical and constructive life-question we can ask anywhere, anytime.
6. The truth of our pain holds a key to our freedom:
7. Pain of some kind – especially spiritual pain – is an integral part of life. It is best viewed as promise rather than threat. The aim is not so much to get rid of it as it is to grow because of it. Pray: “Lord, deliver me not from it but in it and through it.”
8. The ANS process is useful to this end, as is Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing.
9. Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: “If you feel like another drink, ask yourself if you are sad or lonely, anxious or angry.” In other words, they are saying to this person who is potential ruining his/her life with alcohol: “Actually, alcohol is not the real issue. It is a symptom of the real issue. You need to address the real issue.” There is great wisdom in this advice.
10. It might take professional therapy to address the pain.