Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Promise in Pain

The poet Ogden Nash once penned this brief poem: Some pains are physical/some pains are mental/but the one that’s both is dental!

While we might smile at Nash’s witty words, pain is no laughing matter. We need to become more aware of our pain. It may seem strange to call for a greater awareness of pain since pain calls attention to itself so well. Yet, too many of us suffer silently with our pain.

Most of us seek medical attention when our pain reaches the level of intolerance. Unfortunately for some, pain can become chronic. Chronic pain is an overwhelming issue for a vast number of persons in the United States. It is estimated that fifty million Americans live and suffer with chronic physical pain.

As the Nash poem reminds us, pain is not only physical. A large number of Americans suffer from emotional pain. However, in the case of emotional pain many persons don’t seek treatment because of the stigma associated with depression, grief, or bipolar disorder.

Pain is often the first sign that something is wrong and is nearly always viewed as a medical issue in need of medical treatment. There have been many advances in the treatment of physical and emotional pain. If these treatments alleviate, or reduce our pain to manageable levels, we are fortunate.

But what happens when medical treatments don’t bring the relief we need and want?

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of pain is that it can cause us to feel helpless and powerless. We can easily see ourselves as victims with little control or power over our pain. Is there a way to find power and purpose in our suffering?
Because of a strong and proven mind/body connection, a spiritual approach could help when other treatments fail.

A spiritual approach involves: (1) acknowledging that pain is an inevitable part of being alive, (2) facing our pain rather than running from it, (3) learning the lessons pain can teach us, (4) discovering our inner strength to cope with pain, (5) being willing to journey with others in finding hope in the midst of pain.

How we cope with the pain that inevitably comes into our lives has so much to do with whether we feel happy, content and fulfilled. So let us suffer silently no more. If we have chronic pain, let us resolve to seek treatment. And, if we are in emotional pain, let us seek treatment as well.

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