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My 3 Steps to Finding Hope and Relief While Living With Chronic Pain

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Despite trying to keep a positive attitude, other people and I can find ourselves feeling worn down and hopeless when we’re living with chronic pain. We’ve tried everything to heal our condition and to relieve our pain, yet we’re still in it. What can we do?

A Daily Act of Courage

Sometimes it’s easier for us to fall into a kind of grim resignation than to keep putting energy and hope into treatments and practices.

Over time, we can sink lower and lower emotionally, into a kind of omnipresent depression. Here, life seems gray and lifeless, and it becomes a major act of fortitude and resolution just to get up and face another day. I think of this as a kind of seeping loss of hope that can drain whatever remaining well being we have if we’re not careful. Giving up, giving in, abandoning hope, and abandoning ourselves may be just around the corner.

When I feel like this, I have to remind myself that I’m in some kind of process or practice. I’m either moving towards a better place, or I am allowing the pain in my body to decide for me how I feel about myself and about life.

If I insist that pain must leave completely before I can be happy again, then I am making it the master of my emotional well being.

The Practice of Finding Balance

This effort, to live with pain and not succumb to depression or despondency, is an effort to find emotional, mental, and physical balance within and around the pain. A balance between not forcing myself to be unrealistically bright and cheery, but not allowing myself to wallow in self-pity either. This takes mental and emotional discipline. It becomes a form of daily spiritual practice.

Certainly, living with pain is not a path anyone in their right mind would consciously choose as a spiritual practice for themselves. It is a difficult and lonely path that we walk out of necessity, quiet and internal,  but it can also be surprisingly deep and rich.

It’s not that being in pain is inherently spiritual, despite the fact that some religions consider suffering to be a holy sacrament — a concept I don’t embrace. For me, it’s certainly not the suffering or the pain or some kind of sacred martyrdom that gives a spiritual quality to the path through the pain.

It’s how we are with the pain. It’s what we do and don’t do with it and through it. It’s the positive choices we make for ourselves on a daily basis.

Standing With The Self Through Pain

For me, the spiritual aspect of the journey isn’t that you try to be cheerful or that you think positively or you try not to complain and be the perfect patient. In fact, those things can be very counterproductive. No, it’s first and foremost the choice to stay with myself, so to speak, to be true to my own feelings and to learn to stand by me. I am there for me.

And that standing with the self, believing in the self, not giving up on the self, whatever that looks like for each of us, can be incredibly hard to do. To not take the path of hating life, of hating who we are, of hating the circumstances, is the path.

And when we find the bitterness, the anger, and the hatred rising up  —toward ourselves or toward the circumstances — we can feel it and let it pass through. We choose to honor what’s coming up, but we choose not to live there.

It’s a daily spiritual practice to constantly return to openness. This takes a very deep spiritual practice. It takes courage and fortitude, resolution and determination, and an inner choice which we must constantly renew to stand with ourselves, and remain the center and the heart of our own lives.

Getty Image by primipil

Originally published: October 8, 2018
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