Out of Your Vulnerabilities Will Come Your Strength: Where there’s pain, there’s growth
This post is part of The Awakened Heart Project
Week 2: Out of Your Vulnerabilities Will Come Your Strength: Where there’s pain, there’s growth
“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”
― Andy Rooney
Pain Exists. Life can hurt. And sometimes, life can hurt A LOT. But this pain is for your benefit.
How many times have your heard it, “Life is not fair”. It’s true. Life is often unfair. We often get the shaft. Good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations, and painful experiences. While others, who you may believe live horrible lives always seem to get the “best possible scenario” in life. Don’t worry, karma has a way of working things out, sometimes you just have to be patient. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not saying go ahead and resent people or wish bad things upon them. That’s wasted energy (and bad karma). Rather, don’t waste your energy, because the universe will take care of them. You have more important things to do with your life.
Let face it, sometimes, life is PAINFUL! Sometimes, it hurts so much, you feel as though you can’t go on. Perhaps you’ve even had a few nights where you’ve cried your eyes shut (I know I have). You may think, “Why? Why? WHHHYYYY???!!”
Those times of pain feel endless and arduous to say the least. But take a second and look back on some of those times. Did you learn anything from those times of suffering? Did you at some point have a realization about your circumstances, or the path that brought you to that point? Did you not wake from a night of tears, only to feel just a little bit better? The thing about pain is that it opens a wound in us causing the healing process to take place, and with that, come growth.
Now here’s the really important part…
Whenever you have an open wound, there are two ways you can handle it:
(1) You ignore it. You don’t even bother washing it out. You just wait for it to scab over, hope that it doesn’t get infected, maybe take an Advil to help reduce the pain, hope that it stop hurting, and that’s the extent of it. If it leaves you with a nasty scar, so be it.
(2) You take the time to clean it. You make sure it doesn’t get infected. You might even get some Neosporin and gently place it over the wound before you apply a bandage to it. You check the bandage and replace it as needed. As it begins to heal, you remove it, as it has healed enough where it no longer needs it. You slowly start to see the wound get smaller and smaller and begin to disappear. You may even apply some vitamin-e to reduce the scaring, even though your precautions prior helped reduce the chances of a nasty scar quite a bit.
In scenario (1), the wound was ignored. In scenario (2) it was nurtured. This is true in life as well. When we suffer from pain in our lives, we’re open wounds. Our hearts are open and they’re hurting. If we ignore this, we will carry a scar on our heart for years if not a lifetime. This scar, although small, and seemingly harmless, runs deep under the surface, in places we do not see, but our bodies do recognize. This is like the subconscious mind. Our wounds from our past, -even though we thought they had healed and were behind us, still surface affecting our lives.
When you nurture a wound, you take the time to heal it. Open wounds are vulnerable and painful yes, but they’re far more painful when they continue to reopen due to a lack of proper care or infection. The process of healing can take time but it’s what facilitates new growth.
The Healing Process in a Nutshell
Immediately after you suffer an injury, the body’s “Superheros of Healing” take action.
Stage 1: Blood vessels leading to the wound tighten reducing the flow of blood to the injured area. Platelets then clump to each other and adhere to the sides of the wound making a plug.
- Translation: This is like a state of shock, helping ease the pain (just a little bit). The pain gives way to tears (i.e. blood) and as you cry, your heart begins the process of healing (platelets clumping).
Stage 2: Clotting proteins together with a fibrin net hold the platelet plug in place, stopping the bleeding and beginning the scabbing process.
- Translation: This is the time were emotional healing takes place. The brain and heart work together to allow the wound to begin to heal. Slowly, the wound becomes scab that will eventually fall off once the healing is complete.
Stage 3: White blood cells enter to fight infection and destroy any germs that may have entered the wound.
- Translation: The heart and mind are trying to make sense of the wound. They work to rationalize it (or place blame where needed, -not recommended). This is where the foundation for new beginnings and growth are established. If the heart and mind project negative thoughts, blame on others, denial, anger, resentment, and refusing to see a growth opportunity, INFECTION WILL ENSUE, and the healing process will be long, hard, and painful. On the other hand, the heart and mind can use the wounded state to jumpstart growth, gain new insights, and begin a much easier healing process. It is then, and only then, that true healing and growth can take place.
Stage 4: True healing beings and skins cells begin to grow new tissue and collagen, filling the wound under the scab creating new capillaries that bring oxygen-rich blood to the wound. The skin surrounding the wound becomes thicker and stretches over the scabbed area. Finally, overtime, scar tissue becomes stronger and gradually fades the scar.
- Translation: Think of that oxygen-rich blood as life, excitement and the new opportunities beginning to come your way. Life is feeding your heart and soul. The hole that was once in your heart is slowly being filled and covered with these new opportunities (i.e. new growth tissue). And slowly but surely, you realize that you are stronger, you’ve learned from this experience, and although it was difficult, and you remember it (i.e. scar tissue), you now see the reasons why you needed that wound, – to help you grow. As Sigmund Freud put it, “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”
What Does This All Mean?
With pain, comes new life
With pain, come opportunity
With pain, comes growth
With pain, come healing
Life will always bring us times of pain, disappointment and heartache. But with it will always come opportunity and transformation. Pain is for your benefit. Life is more mystery than misery. You may not see it right away, but if you nurture your wounds properly, new insights will surface and you will begin to appreciate the opportunity that that pain has brought you. Further, and this is important: if we never allow ourselves to feel pain, we would never know the great pleasures that exist in life.
Growth can come from places you thought were dead, barren, and disappointing. If you want to grow as a person, and improve your life, accept that there is going to be some pain. Constant comfort and familiarity never produced growth, insight, or awakened hearts.
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
- What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you think about past painful experiences?
- If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or upset, is it possible pain from you past has left a nasty scar that needs some nurturing?
- What pain from you past has been a blessing in disguise?
- How have you grown during your most dark times?
*Many of the ideas for the awakened heart project come from the book “How to Be Happy, Dammit: A Cynic’s Guide to Spiritual Happiness” by Karen Salmansohn
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