Eckhart Tolle calls it the pain body. Painful memories and emotions trapped within us, directing aspects of our lives. The bigger the pain body, the bigger the effect on our lives.
I like to call it the pain monster. Yes, it sounds scarier, but for me, it also sounds more personable, in a monster-like way. And certainly, when pain takes control of our thoughts, mood, and actions, it can feel quite monstrous.
And, it’s at that very moment, when things feel their darkest, when there’s no apparent light in sight, that it’s time to invite the monster to dance.
But monsters are scary, you might say. And I agree, they are. They’re scary because they’re hiding. They’re scary because they’re in the dark. They’re scary because we can’t always predict what they’ll do. Scary because they embarrass us, shame us, and make us feel so bad. And sometimes, they just won’t leave us alone.
The pain monster wants attention, pure, and simple. Attention, and understanding.
Recently, I was having a particularly hard time feeling calm and relaxed. My usual tools weren’t doing the trick. I was feeling quite unable to shift my emotional state, no matter what I tried.
So, I surrendered my struggle. I sat down to meditate. And, this time, I truly sat down with my pain. It’s not that I never sit with my pain, but sometimes there’s an undercurrent of wanting it to change. In other words, judgment. Though I think of myself as being rather non-judgmental, I, like most sensitive people, have a hard time completely letting go of my own self-judgement.
What happened in this meditation brought me to tears. My pain transformed into a monster, who wanted my love and attention. And he wasn’t going anywhere until I gave him what he wanted. (not quite sure why he was a he, but he was.)
So, I invited him to dance. I visualized reaching out my hands to hold his. As he came towards me I saw that he was heavy, bloated, grey, disheveled, and very hunched. His hands were rough, not used to being held.
I drew him closer to me, so that I could look into his eyes. I saw, and felt, his sadness. He looked lonely, and dejected. His enormous heart was heavy and drooping.
I asked him, “What do you want to tell me?”
He replied: “I want you to see that I’ve being doing this for you. I’ve been holding on to your pain. Carrying it for you. Hiding it for you. You don’t want me around, but I’m doing it all for you. And it’s getting too heavy!”
In that moment, I got it. This monster within me, has been here for decades. And though I have cleared out so much pain and trauma over the decades, there was obviously more. Pain, previously hidden, was being dredged up by my exposure to the Supreme Court Nomination testimonies and its aftermath.
All I wanted was to feel better. But in that wanting to feel better, I was judging my pain, trying to get rid of it. Dismissing it, when all it needed was my unconditional love.
As I lovingly danced with my pain monster, he began to lighten up. He stood straighter, allowing his heart to open and release. He shed his frumpy clothing, revealing a brilliantly colored costume underneath. He looked younger, happier, more energetic. He was ready for a new role, ready to help me in new ways.
And I promised him that day, to love him unconditionally. To love my pain unconditionally. To sit with it when all I want is to run the other way. To truly see it, honor it, and in that space, give it permission to release.
Anything that is not love will serve to feed the pain monster. Love is what helps heal the monster’s wounds. Love is what helped me heal from decades of illness. When we stay with our pain, with love unconditional, we can truly move forward in new, amazing ways.
Need help learning how to dance with your pain monster? Contact me.