I’ve been thinking a lot of the allegory of physical pain and emotional pain, and how you treat both as I go through extensive physical therapy for my physical pain. My physical pain requires me to focus on stretching out my muscles multiple times a day so that I am in less pain each day. It’s a challenge to choose to do painful exercises that take away time from other portions of my day, but my physical pain increases when I decide not to do the stretching exercises. Likewise, it is this way in the therapy process. Clients ask me, “How long will this take? How many months or how many sessions will this take to get better?” My response is always the same: to whatever level you put into practice the things that I tell you to do outside of the sessions is to what degree you will recover faster. Last time I was going through physical therapy, I had a severe achilles injury that required doing daily stretches. The problem was that I was in the midst of a move to another house and forcing myself to stop packing up my house and do the necessary stretching was very difficult. I wound up requesting that my doctor sign off on doing more physical therapy so that the therapist would force me to do the work I needed to do to get my leg back. The process of physical therapy took longer because I was putting many other things ahead of my recovery. Moving towards emotional pain and the work we need to do to recover ourselves to psychological health is a painful process. We are forced to stare down the things that we avoid dealing with in life, and we are forced to deal with the feelings that we would medicate by keeping our minds occupied. However, I have noticed that the higher my physical pain levels are, the more I self-medicate and the less I reach out to others. My mind is so preoccupied with my pain that I am unable to focus on giving proper care to those close to me. I realize that I must force myself to do the exercises that cost me time and pain in order to get better for both myself and others. My life is happier when I am pain free. I am not hindered in my daily life and the activities that I can choose to do when I my pain is lessened. The same is true for my loved ones. I give them better care when I am not focused on my pain. I am much more pleasant and amiable when my pain levels are down. How about you? How are you dealing with the emotionally painful things in your life? Are you facing them down daily or are you avoiding them at all cost? Each decision has its own payoff. Avoidance of the pain feels as if it lessens the pain in the short term, but the less we deal with it, the more the pain grows, the slower the process of recovery, and the less I give those whom I love the quality of care they need.
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