5 Strategies for Managing the Pain in Our Lives

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‘Crreeeak’… I will never forget that sound. It was the last thing I heard before I went tumbling down the staircase.

undefinedIt had all seemed such a wonderful idea, to a seven-year-old little me. To prevent one of my cousins who was a toddler from falling down the steep staircase, my grandparents had installed a wooden gate which consisted of a wooden frame with vertical bars. For my eight-year-old brother, my five-year-old cousin and I, the gate made for a fabulous swing. You would swing out over the stairs, push against the wall and back again. My brother got on, then I joined him on the gate, our little feet fitting between the vertical bars of the gate. Then we called my cousin to come on board. What fun! The more the merrier. Till that sound…when the hinges of the gate broke, and we all fell down.

It all happened so fast. A few moments later, I remember feeling my head resting against the surface of a stair. I opened my eyes and I remember thinking, I’m alive, I’m OK. Then it hit me… Pain.


undefinedMany years later and a world away, I am a busy man. Work to be done, bills to pay, kids to care for, responsibilities to shoulder. Things have certainly moved on a lot since those carefree days of my childhood. Yet at times when I have a moment to myself, I notice my old acquaintance from childhood. He has aged and changed too, he now wears the mask of unmet expectations, burnt-out dreams, frustration with modern life, sense of loss, mendacity and meaninglessness. I recognise him, sure enough, unmistakably, it is him, my childhood acquaintance…. Pain.


In the last blog post, I wrote that I will attempt to act as a prism and refract the light of Happiness so we may explore the Rainbow of Happiness and its individual colours, and that is precisely what I intend to do in this blog post.

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As a child, I was taught that a rainbow has seven colours. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo & Violet. We were taught the mnemonic (a system which assists in remembering something), ‘Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain’, where the first letter of each word represented the first letter of each colour of a rainbow. The first colour of a rainbow is Red, and Red is the colour of blood, and often where there is blood, often there is Pain.

Pain is by no means an easy topic to write about. Being a blog with a theme of Happiness it is a bit ironic to be writing about something that is often thought to be far removed from Happiness. There is, however, a relationship between Pain and Happiness, and if you indulge me for a while, I will tell you about it. In line with my philosophy, I’m going to address this topic in a positive way, such that you (my dear readers), may take something of value away from this post.


Let’s start at the beginning. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is Pain?” and “Why does it exist?”

Were you to look it up in a dictionary you may find two possible meanings:

  1. highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.
  2. mental suffering or distress.


undefinedIf we focus on the first definition for a minute, there are two important points, first, it is a physical sensation, and second it has a cause. So, for example, you feel a sharp aching feeling (physical sensation) in your chest, you go and see the doctor, he examines you, runs some tests and tells you that you have a blocked artery (the cause). This allows you to take corrective action and to remove the cause of the Pain.

In the example above, Pain acted as a warning signal. undefinedIt was trying to give us a message, “Attention!!”, “Something’s Not Right”, “Something is not fulfilling its function properly”, “Take Action Immediately”, etc. Without the Pain, we would be unknowingly heading for a much more undesirable situation.

Recognise Pain for what it is, a messenger.


Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather took me for a public lecture about the environment by a famous land-economist. One of the things that I remember the lecturer saying was that to solve any problem what is needed are 3As, namely Acceptance of the problem, Assessment of problem and possible solutions and Action to implement the chosen solution. Hence, in the context of today’s post, Pain is very much related to the first A, to make us Accept that there is a problem.

We need to Accept that there is a problem before we can address it. Pain’s message makes a persuasive case that helps convince us to Accept that there is a problem, that needs to be addressed.


This saves us from the false comfort of living in denial.


At the start of the post, I started with the story of me falling down the staircase. The Pain here was clearly a physical sensation. undefinedThe Pain that I experience these days, corresponds to the second possible meaning of Pain in the dictionary, namely mental suffering or distress. The difficulty with this type of Pain is that it is not acute and it usually doesn’t exceed our Pain threshold. Hence, we are not alerted into action. Sometimes it does build into something that exceeds our Pain threshold, and this awakens us to reach out and do something about it. Most of the time though, it just slowly gnaws away at us from inside and we cover it up, with being busy, often to distract ourselves from the Pain. But in our quiet moments and just before we doze off to sleep we know that it is there. Just as with physical Pain, this Pain is trying to tell us something.

Have you watched the movie Groundhog Day? If you haven’t, it’s about someone who keeps living the same day over and over again. Sometimes, I feel that way. I end up asking myself, how did I end up in the same situation again, with the same Pain. I thought I would have known better but it keeps on repeating. There is a saying, “Experience is the Best Teacher”, which means basically that we need to learn from our experience. I went for a training course once, where it was said, that we tend to end up in fixed patterns of behaviour until we learn to break the pattern. If we fail to grasp the essence of the lesson, then we are unable to move on from that pattern of behaviour. A bit like in school I guess, if you don’t pass your exams you can’t go to the next level.

Pain is telling us that we need to learn the lesson from our experience, before we can break the pattern of behaviour, and be allowed to move on in life

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Do you recall your greatest success? What made it so special? Chances are it did not come easy. You probably had to overcome some form of hardship to achieve it, which is why it is special to you. Think of your favourite movie or story, odds are there was a difficult situation that needed to be overcome, and was. It wouldn’t have been interesting if everything was fine and rosy from beginning to end. The point I’m making is that of contrast. The bigger the problem overcome, the bigger the success, and the more inspirational we find in it. We come to know things by their opposites.

How would we know light, if there were no darkness? How would we know silence, if there were no noise? How would we know hot, if there was no cold?

How would we know Happiness, if there was no Pain?
The existence of Pain gives Happiness meaning and makes it all the more precious.

Having known Pain makes Happiness so much Sweeter when we taste it.

I never appreciated hot weather and the sunshine much until I experienced a freezing winter.

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I never valued the yearlong greenery of a tropical country much until I visited a desert country.

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I never cherished waking up to the singing of the birds much until I had to wake up to the rumbling and honking of traffic.
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We should know that today’s Pain will allow us to appreciate tomorrow’s Happiness much more.


When we experience Pain, our natural instinct is to make it stop, and to do this we are willing to go to great lengths. It is commonly recognised that people are motivated by a desire to gain pleasure or to avoid Pain. Hence the expression carrot and stick, parents out there I’m sure you are all very familiar with this. When our Pain passes a threshold level it drives us to take decisive action. After arguing with a loved one, the Pain of estrangement motivates us to reconcile. When our job becomes too frustrating the Pain motivates us to find another job. Many people who experience the loss of a loved one are motivated to set-up charities in the name of their loved ones so that something good and positive may come out of it. Through-out history many, many people turned their Pain into their source of motivation. Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression, Charles Dickens loss a loved one, Martin Luther King Jr suffered from depression. and Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years, just to name a few.

Pain can be the fuel for many of our greatest achievements and for our future Happiness.

To round-off this post, the 5 strategies for managing the Pain in our lives are:

  1. Recognise Pain for what it is, a messenger. 
  2. Know that Pain helps us Accept that there is a problem, only then can we start to address the problem.
  3. Pain communicates to us that we need to learn the lesson from our experience, before we can break the pattern of behaviour, and be allowed to move on in life. Ask yourself, “What is it that I need to learn from this situation?”
  4. The existence of Pain gives Happiness meaning and makes it all the more precious. Today’s Pain will allow us to appreciate tomorrow’s Happiness much more. Focus on the Happiness that you seek, knowing that your Pain contributes towards it.
  5. Pain can be the fuel for many of our greatest achievements and for our future Happiness. Ask yourself, “How can I use this Pain to motivate me to achieve something positive?”


Lastly on a personal note, do reach out to those you love, your family and friends. They do care about you and will give you strength and support should you need it. We are always stronger together.

I hope this blog post has been of value to you.undefined

Do share with your friends on Social Media.

What are your thoughts on today’s blog post? Drop me a comment, it would be great to know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading this blog post and I’ll see you in the next post.

Keep Smiling,

Zahir

undefinedP.s... I recently turned 40, upon pondering that milestone in my life, I was filled with pent-up frustration that I had not achieved much of what I had dreamt of when I was younger. The pain that I felt drove me to take decisive action. Afer considering and researching my options I decided I wanted to do something that I could be passionate about, so I joined SFM/DEA. Find out how SFM/DEA can help you take decisive action and Build a Business that You Can be Passionate About.

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