Perhaps one of the greatest challenges involved in witnessing for my clients as they work toward self-transformation is helping them to look, unafraid, at the burden of old pain they are carrying around with them.
Old pain is there in all of us.
It’s carried by busy, care-taking moms and business owning divas who run after everyone else’s needs – you know, the ones who exemplify the expression, “If you want something to get done, give it to a busy person”.
It’s couched in spiritual terminology – the shadow, the pain body – by deeply reflective people who meditate and pray, who do yoga or practice qi gong daily.
It’s present in highly intelligent, self-starting folks who can speak eloquently about their ‘trust issues’ – and who will go to great lengths to explain that they really do know what they need to be working on (how’s that working out for you, by the way?).
Think you’re not carrying old pain?
My sweet, beautiful beings, I say this to you with only love in my heart: everyone is carrying old pain. Everyone.
Your pain is whispering, “I’m here” when you can’t sleep at night.
It shouts when you overreact to something or someone.
It purrs when you meet someone whose pain is very similar to your own (Note: this is categorically NOT a sign from God that this person is The One).
It creaks and groans in that old shoulder / knee / back / ankle injury.
It croons, “You need me to know who you are” when you feel small, ashamed, in despair.
It protests (too much), “If you let me go, you won’t ever be safe” when you are trying to give trust a chance in that new relationship.
And as long as we deny that we are carrying old pain – wherever we go, whatever relationship we have – we will play the blame game: projecting our pain outwards onto others while justifying these attacks as the only way to keep ourselves safe.
In this way, we create more pain for ourselves through conflict, judgment, and disassociation.
This is insane – particularly in view of the fact that it’s completely unnecessary.
But we don’t hold onto old pain because we’re stupid, uneducated, or un-evolved. We don’t warehouse old pain because it’s sane or because it’s healthy. We do this because it’s what we were taught to do: repress or squeeze down the uncomfortable emotions until we simply can’t anymore.
In fact, we’ve been told it is normal – even ideal – to deny, ignore, repress, or medicate our pain. Enter the sobbing intern, the raging grocery clerk, the numbed out accountant, the doctor addicted to pain meds, or…you.
And why not?
We’re surrounded by the idea that the way to deal with old pain is through avoidance.
Sometimes, we’ll do anything to avoid it.
We shop to distract ourselves.
We intellectualize about the feelings (without actually feeling them).
Or we drink. Or have an affair. Or eat. Or stick a needle in our arm. Or ask for / accept medications to numb our pain without ever committing to a plan to work through it – a bit at a time – so that, eventually, we won’t need those prescriptions anymore.
But here’s the thing: while experiences of pain, grief, loss, resentment, unforgiveness, etc. are a part of living, it is never necessary to carry them around with us like an American Express card!
Old pain effects every single facet of our lives – and like any burden, it gets heavier over time.
The more we store, the greater our fear of facing it becomes.
But face it we can. We can. You can. You – you miraculous, incredible, beautiful human being…you have it within you to move through it and out the other side. Most of us were never told this. But it’s true.
Watch me now: There is not one single part of your life that is unaffected by the pain you are carrying. And subsequently, there is no part of your life that wouldn’t be improved if you learned how to walk through it to the other side.
That old grudge, unforgiveness, wound, trauma, trust issue is taking up prime real estate inside us.
It’s filling a space that could otherwise be filled with creativity, connection, love, beauty, grace. You name it.
I’ve said it before: when we find a way to let go of old pain, we make a space inside where joy can live. In this way, that old pain can be a gateway to new joy. It takes courage, yes.
But if I’ve learned anything from working with folks who’ve decided to start reclaiming that inner acreage from ‘ye olde pain shoppe’, it’s this:
Our fear of facing the pain is often more difficult to confront than the pain itself.
When we discover this for ourselves, the fear can become what saves us, in a strange way. It’s the red flag.
When we feel that fear moving us away from who we want to be, from the life we want to create for ourselves, this is a sure sign that some remarkable transformation and healing is within our reach.
Once the fear becomes tangible, the jig is up. The curtain is pulled back. The wizard – our fear – is revealed to be nothing more than a little man behind the curtain who’s been pulling our strings all along, Dorothy.
After that, it becomes entirely possible to move through the old pain gently but with persistence; nurturing ourselves while remaining committed to our work; honoring our own pace while held in a loving space created for us and sustained by our witnesses.
Say it with me, beautiful soul: it is possible to release that old pain – and the fear that makes us want to shy away from even acknowledging its existence.
In my own practice, I use guided meditations, shamanic journeying, energy work, and other tools to help my clients as I hold space for them to honor and release their old shame, grief, loss, unworthiness, and a host of other painful emotions and experiences. We go at their pace. But we go.
I have watched my clients take on the most horrible losses, the most painful violations, the most devastating betrayals – and come out the other side lighter.
I am saying to you that it is not only possible for them – but for you, also.
It is possible for each of us. Every one.
I get to be a witness for these transformations – and it never ceases to amaze me how resilient and remarkable human beings are.
In the very depths of our pain, we can find grace. Strength. Insight. Clarity. Purpose.
All things that have eluded us while we pranced and danced around our pain and the fear that kept us at arm’s reach from it for too long.
Whatever your process, whatever healing you undertake, know that you can do this. And that the freedom, the lightness, and the liberation of being emancipated from old pain is so much more than worth the effort: it can feel like being reborn. And that’s a bargain, at any price.