Heeding Mental / Emotional pain as a call to personal growth
Some persons are fortunate to be called to wellbeing and a life of personal authenticity by nature, upbringing, or simply good fortune. Most others of us however are called by the mental, emotional, and spiritual pain of an inherently inauthentic life.
“The call at the beginning is a vague, almost imperceptible and mysterious flame. It shows itself as a questioning of the disharmony you live in. It is your disharmony, as you experience it. It is your own questioning. And it is your personal yearning,” notes A.H. Almaas. Unheeded, the call can lead to profound personal pain and even crisis.
When faced with such personal pain and suffering, how then shall we respond? Shall we flee the sharp edge of our pain, or shall we embrace it thereby engaging ourselves in an unparalleled adventure of self-discovery and personal growth?
Is there an alternative to Prozac?
Some estimate that in the U.S. there are as many as 30 million prescriptions for psychoactive drugs such as Prozac. Indeed it seems, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau observed.
While psychoactive drugs do bring meaningful relief to many persons overwhelmed by acute personal pain, we need to be careful to distinguish between symptom relief and personal transformation. In the efforts of managed care administrators to be cost effective, rather than pay for the therapy that might relieve the insured’s personal pain by addressing the very causes of the pain, the administrators instead pressure mental health professionals to prescribe psychoactive drugs. The penny is of more value than the person.
Although our pain may be significantly alleviated by a psychoactive drug, we need to be careful to remember that only the symptom has been alleviated. The cause of our pain remains unchanged. Rather than ignore the muffled pain, perhaps instead we should heed it.
Mental and Emotional Pain as a Call
“These pains that you feel are messengers. Listen to them,” sang Rumi, the Persian ecstatic. Neither numb, nor run from pain. Instead, listen to your messengers. Why?
A principle of holistic medicine perhaps can shed some light. We commonly caricature allopathic medicine as treating the symptom rather than the cause of disease. We value holistic medicine’s understanding of illness as the body’s signal that there is something wrong whose cause, not effect, needs remedying.
So too pain is the psyche’s signal that there is something wrong with the psyche or soul that needs remedying. To lose ourselves in television or computer games, binge eating, boozing, getting stoned, or running from one counselor or spiritual group to another is akin to the allopathic strategy of dealing with the symptom not the cause of our pain. A holistic approach to our pain would be to seek out our messengers, and inquire into our selves and our lives.
The Call to Personal Growth
So mental and emotional pain then is a messenger to whom we would hearken were we to heal the souls, rather than numb the symptom of our suffering. And were we to listen as Rumi counsels, what might we find?
The cause of our pain we find ultimately is the inhibition of our authentic nature. Each of us is endowed with a unique, given nature. Each of us is born to unique life conditions. Each of us experiences life with a style and perspective that is distinct. Each of us stands in a place that cannot be occupied by another. Each of us is challenged to effortlessly be and express our authentic self.
Yet too often the expression of our authentic nature is distorted by past or present experiences and life conditions. These have thwarted our development to the full maturity of authentic living. This inability to be ourselves, this inhibition of our authentic nature we experience as pain.
Heed The Call of Your Pain
So rather than our mental, emotional, and spiritual pains being a threat to our existence that we would numb and shun, perhaps these pains are the very calls of our souls, our psyches, to an authentic life. If we heed the calls of our messengers, then we will embark on a journey of personal growth and self-discovery that certainly can lead to a life of authentic fulfillment.