When hiding from pain becomes a means of hoarding it

Image credit: © 2007 nasrul ekram, from Flickr | used via CC-BY licensing

I tend to resent pain when it shows up in my life. I also resent struggle and discomfort and unpleasantness of any kind.

I’ve absorbed our cultural myth that life is supposed to be happy and pleasant and pain-free at all times. Therefore, any of these unpleasantries are an indication that something is wrong in my life, and I resent not having the kind of perfectly happy, untroubled existence that I think I have the right to expect.

So when pain shows up in my life—as it does on a regular basis—I do what seems like the most logical thing in the world to do: I hide from it.

I do my best to pretend it’s not there, to cover it over, to drown it out, to ignore it. After all, if I can avoid feeling the pain, then I can avoid the unpleasantness of hurting and avoid the sense that something is wrong in my world all at the same time, right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

This tendency to hide from pain seems to be the default way of dealing with pain in our culture. We may have very different ways of going about that hiding, but we all seem to have this urge to hide from the pain we feel to “make it go away.”

Our methods of hiding range from substance abuse to over-work to obsessive busyness to over-functioning in various ways to entertainment overload to codependent over-focusing on someone else’s life … and many more.

Personally, I spent years obsessively reading every book I could lay my hands on to avoid having to face my own pain. When I was lost in someone else’s story, I could make my own discomfort go away for a while.

The problem is that hiding from the pain never really made it go away. In fact, by refusing to deal with it, I just stored it up and kept it with me. Attempting to hide from it effectively became a means of hoarding it!

And the more I hid from it, the bigger the pile of unresolved pain and issues continue to become until the accumulated pile of it grew so large that no amount of hiding could avoid it any longer. It became an avalanche that nearly buried me alive.

I’ve learned the hard way that healing only comes through facing the pain, feeling it, and moving through it. Only then is it transmuted into a gift that I can use to minister to other hurting people instead of a pile of ugly half-concealed baggage that inflicts damage on anyone nearby (and thereby creating even more pain from which I find it necessary to hide).

Only when the woundedness and brokenness is fully faced and dealt with does it become the gold that is the healing we find in the beautiful kintsugi of our lives.

I still don’t enjoy pain and difficulty when it shows up, but I’ve come to recognize that it’s not a sign that something is wrong with my life. It’s just part and parcel of living. It’s to be expected as part of normal human existence.

Accepting that has made it easier to face things when they happen, feel them, deal with them, and move through them to the healing available on other side. Oddly enough, facing the pain and difficulty square in the face has meant that I spend less time with it. Rather than carrying it around with me for years as I attempt to hide from it, I deal with it and move on.

As I’ve realized how freeing it ultimately is to face the pain, I’m also learning to recognize my own favorite hiding strategies so I know to look deeper when they show up to discover what it is that I’m “hiding” from. Old habits—even unhelpful ones like this one—die hard.

Have you ever noticed this tendency to hide from pain in your own life?

Do you know what your favorite hiding strategies are so that you can recognize when they show up?

What difference do you notice in your life when you face the pain the difficulty instead of hiding from it?

What kind of support do you need to stop hiding and face that which needs to be healed so it can actually start healing?

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  1. Janelle Schneider

    I’ve been learning so much in the past year about the value of just sitting with my own pain, as I would with a friend. It sounds so counter-intuitive, but it really is the only path to healing … just letting it be, feeling it as fully as required, and then seeing what emerges. Very hard work.

    1. Thanks so much for this, Janelle! I have found that the more comfortable I am sitting with my own pain, the better I am at sitting with other people’s pain too. But so much more healing takes place when I do this than when I try to hide from it that it’s worth every bit of the hard work involved! I’m so grateful to hear from someone else who has experienced the same thing. Thank you!

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