Purpose in Pain

kristen 2

We spend an enormous amount of time in our lives worrying about, anticipating, and avoiding pain. We learn quickly as children that we don’t want whatever it is that hurts. It’s a survival instinct. In my childhood, I came to associate the doctor’s office with pain and I immediately became nervous anytime I had to walk through those doors. I remembered how I felt there and I remembered all the things the doctor and nurses did to me; e.g., poked me with a needle, swabbed my throat, etc. Even if I knew in my mind that going to the doctor was good for me because it would ultimately help with whatever was ailing me, my fear was every bit as paralyzing.

We are simply afraid of pain and most of us will do whatever we have to do avoid it.  It occurred to me one day that all of our greatest fears are linked to our perceived risk of significant physical or emotional pain.

We are not really afraid of heights, but the pain we will inevitably experience if we fall, and it’s not that we are afraid of getting close to someone and trusting them, but that we are afraid of the pain that will come when they break our trust and our hearts.

Think of your greatest fear and I bet you can identify an underlying fear of pain. We are constantly assessing the risks and what we perceive as risky depends on our past experience. The more we’ve been hurt by something or the worse we’ve been hurt (the deeper the pain), the more we try to protect ourselves.

Again, instinct. This is particularly problematic in dating and relationships as the protective emotional walls start to go up, which prevent us from being close and from feeling loved.

These emotional walls are a major problem in dating at this age. Because of past experiences, many are afraid to put their hearts out there, afraid to get close to someone, afraid of additional failures, but we NEED to make ourselves vulnerable and we need to trust.  What we want most is to feel loved, yet by the walls we put up, we block any chance of feeling it.


The concept that has been revolutionary for me is that pain is just information.

That’s it. Pain is only there to tell us something.

Just like physical pain indicates that there is something wrong with your body, emotional pain is meant to guide you to the source of the pain, to whatever needs your attention. Internalizing that concept is changing me and it’s changing the way I interact with other people. From my experience I have learned that pain is either trying to tell us that something in our life needs to change, that we are acting outside of our core beliefs, or that we have painful feelings resurfacing from the past that have been triggered and that we need to work through.

1.  Something in our life needs to change. Whether it’s getting out of an abusive relationship, changing our attitude towards our boss, learning to select better friends, or dropping a bad habit, something needs to change. The trick is figuring out exactly what it is that holds us back or identifying the hurt feelings and what they are associated with so they can be resolved.

Hurt feelings MUST be worked out as they come up or they will eat away at the foundation of our relationships. I am convinced that the greatest key to a good relationship is the ability to sit down and resolve conflict with compromise and with unconditional love and humility. Sometimes the thing that needs to change involves getting out of a bad situation, but much of the time it involves changing our own hearts.

2.  We are acting outside our core belief system. This is really a sub-category of number 1, but it’s important enough to mention specifically. Anytime we act outside of our core beliefs, it’s going to hurt. If you believe it is wrong to kill a man, and you go ahead and murder someone, you are going to feel like hell. What we believe, what we say, and what we do all have to be in harmony or we are going to feel inner turmoil. Many of the ways we escape from pain involve behaviors that go against our belief system (drugs, alcohol, casual sex, excessive spending) and only compound our pain.


3.  Painful feelings from the past have been triggered.  The other powerful truth I’ve learned is that we can’t choke back, bury or ignore pain because it will always come back if it hasn’t been resolved. I buried pain in my marriage because I had tried to resolve it and it didn’t work. Painful feelings continued to resurface over the course of several years. We have to approach the pain and work through what is causing it. Period.

After a life-changing event like divorce, there are going to be layers of pain and they can’t all be resolved at once. It takes time and it can be frustrating. Dating has opened me up to feeling unresolved pain and has pointed me to the particular spots where I am still sensitive. Certain people just seem to have the power to trigger those pains. I am trying to embrace it and learn from it rather than running from it and I think that is crucial to the healing process.

So, rather than trying to avoid emotional pain, we need to realize that it’s actually part of the healing process. It’s an indicator. What is your pain telling you? I believe if we listen to what the pain is telling us, we can experience complete healing. Through the power of the love of our family and friends and the love of God, we can eventually find peace and meaning to our pain. When we feel loved, it is easier to approach those feelings. We just have to stop running from the pain, and just like we would with physical pain, we need to address the problem and figuratively go to the doctor.

kristenAbout the Author–  Kristen BrandtBorn and raised in Utah, Kristin Brandt is a professional genealogist and historian. She is currently in the process of launching her own company, offering genealogical research services. She also writes family histories in which she integrates historical context for a fuller picture of the life experience of ancestors. She attended Brigham Young University, where she earned a B.A. degree in Family History. In 2004 she co-founded and acted as editor of an online genealogy newsletter, GenWeekly. Several of her articles have been republished by various genealogical societies.

Her greatest calling and joy is being a mother to three beautiful children. Her hobbies include dance, yoga, healthy living, fashion and design. She believes in dancing in the kitchen (and everywhere else), singing to the radio, and being perpetually curious.

Kristin’s core belief is in unconditional love and she is passionate about spreading that message and helping other singles. She has started her own blog, ibelieveinloveblog.wordpress.com, where her goal is to bring awareness and support to singles, addressing issues relating to love, dating, relationships and single parenting in the context of Mormon culture. You can also follow her on Instagram @ksojogirl.



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