The Memory of Pain
THE MEMORY OF PAIN
BY MARY COOK, M.A., R.A.S.
Remembering our losses can trigger a tidal wave of despair. Sadness sometimes turns into self destructiveness, shame, anger or blame. We may close our hearts to cease investing in what we cannot possess. We might distract ourselves in endeavors that require no vulnerability, or seek solace and escape in compulsions and addictions.
Recalling trauma may bring the vision of a child’s trembling terror, of not knowing what unspeakable things might happen. We may relive the razors’ edge of pain or the battle cries of the criminally insane, who imagined that we were their enemy.
Long forgotten aspirations and fallow fields where hope once lived, may haunt us with a feeling that we are but a ghost with human skin. Brief moments of excitement can clash with ancient instant replays of humiliation, threats and abuse for daring to dream.
The resurgence of painful memories stimulate our original sensory responses. Even when we are not consciously aware of the information, our subconscious or unconscious mind triggers these old energies. What we felt, heard, said, saw and smelled during painful events, impacts our present experience of ourselves and our environment.
One of the many purposes of healing, is to increase our ability to contain and fully feel positive energy. We cannot build a fortress strong enough to keep the vicissitudes of life away. We cannot fight, resist, escape, deny, glorify or ally with hardship and pain, to improve its’ effect upon us and our lives.
What we can do is enlarge our vision and understanding. We can expand our compassion to include all of life on earth. All elements, plants, animals, as well as humans, experience the forces of both positive and negative change. We can reflect upon the effects of fire, earthquakes, drought, floods and tornadoes. We can consider the consequences of deforestation, pollution, global warming, and other exploitations of the earth. We can see cruelty to animals and people through torture, rape, and various abuses including neglect, endangerment and abandonment. These are some of the many compelling reasons to cultivate compassion, caring, tenderness, respect and sensitivity. There is so much in life that begs for humility, helpfulness, and generosity of spirit.
If we are to heal and live fulfilling, meaningful lives, we cannot afford to waste time in pity, vengeance, entitlement, denial, passivity or rage. The levels of anxiety, depression and violence in our world belie a human culture that does more to perpetuate pain than to teach personal responsibility for positive change.
Animals don’t wonder why they were singled out for disaster, when it arrives. They waste no time or energy in the problem. Their focus in response to threats, damage and loss is on healing and adapting. Animals additionally seek safety and comfort in self-nurturing and accepting empathic help. We can do the same by refusing to harm, endanger or neglect ourselves or others. Empathy, healthy boundaries and understanding will allow us to be safe, to heal and to adapt appropriately.
It is important to find people with whom we can disclose our stories of pain, in exchange for therapeutic identification, understanding, empathy, caring and helpfulness. In this process our mind can create new associations to trauma, which allow us ultimately to transform problems into spiritual growth. We can identify and be thankful for the positive differences between us and our environment, then and now. We can remove the defensive barriers that interfere with our ability to release negative energies and internalize positive ones. We can demonstrate this change in actions, communications, feelings and thoughts. We can allow ourselves to feel, hear, see, touch, taste and smell a broad range of healthy positive stimuli. This helps us to disempower and heal the old energies of trauma.
There are blessings that look like twinkling lights, at the edges of despair. There is a point of perfect peace at the very center of our being, despite the tornado of terror surrounding us. When we withdraw into emptiness with acceptance, we can open our eyes to divine grace. There are no distractions or “fixes” that heal. But if we listen carefully, there is a soft voice whispering solutions in our ears. When our mind mutters incomprehensible thoughts, we can ask our hearts to pray for us. When we are feeling the sting of physical pain, we might recall the feeling of soft, warm, comforting caresses from those we love. We are apprentice alchemists with the power of Heaven within us. When we remember this, the painful burdens of lead can be transformed into the gold of enlightenment. Our eyes then see the white dove of peace filling the sky with its beauty, and we prideful human warriors can lay down our bloodied swords, and humbly bow in reverence to higher truth.