How do you deal with pain?
According to shame and vulnerability specialist Brene Brown, our brains do not distinguish between emotional pain and physical pain. Whether you royally embarrass yourself, get your heart broken, or put your hand on a hot stove, all your brain computes is “Pain, pain, PAIN!” Our fight-or-flight auto-response systems cannot tell the difference. It all just gets lumped together as stress.
What do you do when you encounter pain? I’ve recently come to realize that I deal with pain and stress a bit differently than some others in my life. When I am in a painful or stressful situation, my automatic response is to deal with it and get it out of my way as quickly as possible. Others will allow their pain to consume them.
Who needs a finger, anyway?
This past summer I did something stupid. My hubby, Jeff, was out of town, and I was home taking care of our farm by myself for a couple of weeks… while also trying to run my business and keep up with all my deadlines. One morning I ran outside to cut grass for the rabbits before I had to hop onto a virtual meeting. I was rushing, and I cut my left index finger pretty badly with the sickle.
It was a gusher. I demonstrated my fabulously colorful vocabulary to the audience of goats and chickens, and ran inside to tend to the wound.
The cut was on the inside edge of my knuckle, as I was holding the grass and cutting toward myself (just like they always tell you not to do!). Fortunately, there was this handy bone inside my finger which stopped the blade from having me shave off whole parts of myself. I decided that I didn’t want to keep bleeding everywhere, so I slathered the wound in helichrysum oil. That stuff is like bottled magic. It stopped the bleeding enough for me to clean the cut with alcohol, apply some antibiotic, and wrap it up nice and tight with gauze and tape.
Then I squeezed my bandaged finger into a glove, went back outside, finished taking care of the bunnies, and still made it to my scheduled virtual meeting on time. It wasn’t until later that day that I talked with a nurse friend of mine who really pushed me to go get it checked out. It was just a cut! I wasn’t bleeding out. I thought it was no big deal.
An urgent care visit and 5 stitches later, I was learning out how to take care of my business and my farm one handed. Typing was a real trick for a couple of months, and I was pretty grumpy. (For those of you close to me, thank you for putting up with my whining.) Nonetheless, you didn’t see me missing any of my Between Wall and Main article deadlines, now did you?
People often ask me how I do it. Do what? I’m not entirely sure.
Everything, they say. How do I do everything I do?
I think this might be the secret: When I’m in pain, I ante up. I don’t let it stop me unless I am really down for the count. Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie or something. I’m not the biggest fan of heights or sports, so rather than taking up base jumping I became an entrepreneur. Maybe it has something to do with being a redhead, as I have heard that redheads have a greater pain threshold.
More likely, it’s just my attitude. I choose it. I take the initiative, seize the opportunities, and always try my best. As a result, my best is constantly improving.
Why would I stop if I can keep going? How do I know what my limits are if I don’t go in search of them? I know there will come a point when I need to stop, so I might as well rest then. Why hang on to life by the tail when you can grab it by the horns?
The Salt of Life
I have known others who deal with pain differently than I do. They feel the need to protect themselves before taking action. They would prefer to stay safe. Not all of us enjoy ups and downs of a life built on risk.
For me, pain in life is like salt in our food. A little bit brings out the flavor of everything, but too much and the dish is ruined. Some of us like things really salty, and others prefer a low-sodium diet.
The important thing is that you know yourself well enough to make the right choices for you. You don’t need to compare your choices or success with anyone else’s. Unfortunately, not everyone knows and accepts themselves as they are. Many see the life of the risk taker as being admirable. They tell themselves lies that contain the word “should,” and then they compare their inner feelings to the exterior appearance of success of those around them. They tell themselves that in order to have what they think they want they will need to change, stepping a bit too far outside their comfort zones.
That’s a really good way to over-salt your food. It’s still edible, but you’re not going to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?
How do YOU do it?
How do you do the amazing things in your life that you do? What is your secret to success? Is it linked to your threshold for stress, pain, and risk? Do you weather the tornado by toughing it out in the storm shelter, or are you chasing the twister down? Zig Ziglar says, “There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” Do you prefer the view from the window on the top floor or from the mountaintop? These are good things to be aware of as you are making intentional choices and following your own intuitive path. The question is, what is success to you, and what are you willing to do to pursue it? Be authentic. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?