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How to Transform Your Pain Into Something Beautiful

Since pain is inevitable, why not use it to create value?

Key points

  • When we embrace pain, lean into it, and honor it, we begin to heal.
  • Disowned pain is a burden on the body that strains and handicaps, and frequently fuels self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse.
  • Transform your pain by expressing it creatively, sharing it, or participating in a mutual support group.
Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Daniel Chekalov on Unsplash

Sooner or later, we all face dark periods in our lives. Times when we feel alone and lost. Times when the simplest tasks, such as leaving the house, can feel impossible.

As long as we are alive, there will be pain. The pain of grief, rejection, financial hardship, illness; the list goes on and on. Sometimes we experience emotional pain caused by anxiety or fear; perhaps unknowns about our future plague us. Other times our pain appears shrouded in mystery, a dark cloud of depression or melancholy that won’t go away.

Ways of Facing Pain

Human beings have always wrestled with pain. We could say that spiritual practices were born from a wish for comfort during desperate times. Prayer, meditation, and spirituality certainly can soothe us when pain is overwhelming.

When we embrace pain, lean into it, and allow our tears to flow, pain moves through us like water through a tube. When we ignore our pain, it gets stuck; the tube becomes clogged. When that happens, pain becomes trapped in our bodies and starts to eat away at our minds and sense of well-being.

The Perils of Disowned Pain

From time to time, we all become prisoners of pain by refusing to acknowledge it. When faced with a painful situation, like small children, we may say, “That didn’t hurt,” when we know it indeed did.

Disowned pain is a burden on the body; it strains and handicaps us. After all, there’s a limit to how much pain the body can hold. Somatic symptoms such as body aches, sleeplessness, panic, or obsessions may appear. When stored too long, our pain may ambush us, triggering us to make regretful decisions, nudging us down the path of self-destruction.

Sadly, disowned pain frequently leads to more significant and complicated pain. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, overeating or under-eating, and acting out sexually or retreating into social isolation are ways that disowned pain manifests and generates imbalances in our lives.

Transforming Pain into Something Beautiful

Since pain is inevitable, why not use it to create value? Here are three ways you can take your pain out of storage and transform it into something beautiful:

1. Turn your pain into creativity.

Artists are the most skilled at transforming pain into forms of expression that move and inspire us. Some of the most incredible music, dance, poetry, literature, films, and paintings sprang from someone's pain.

For example, I have a poetry collection by a particular poet I love. But there is one book that stands out. It moves me to tears more than any others. When researching the poet’s life, I discovered she wrote that book after her daughter’s death. She poured her pain onto the page and transformed it into poetry. The end product offered relief to her and left behind poetry of grief that touches the soul of anyone struggling with loss. (See "Finding Purpose in Your Pain")

2. Share your pain.

Shakespeare wrote, “The grief that does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break.” In other words, speaking about your pain, sharing it, and accepting comfort from others, is the first step to healing.

After psychotherapy sessions filled with tears and anguish, patients often say, “I feel so much better.” Putting their pain into words, making room for it, honoring it, even momentarily, always offers relief.

Personally, when my heart feels broken, I crave solitude, walks by the waterfront, or books of poetry. Self-reflection and mindfulness nurture healing, but they are not enough. I don’t truly heal until I share my pain with others. Isolation is a typical response to pain but becomes problematic if it goes on too long. Reaching out to others and breaking your silence, is curative and necessary.

3. Give back.

There are endless examples of people who took their pain and turned it into a mission to help others. By sharing your pain, you help others feel less alone. Speaking your pain to others triggers an exchange of positive energy and psychic healing. Mutual support groups such as AA or Alanon are beautiful examples of this; therapy groups can also be a wonderful option.

The altruistic impulse may not make headlines, but it is one of the best tonics for pain. (See "Signs You Need A Lifestyle Change")

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