LIVING ON PURPOSE: The Powerful Purpose of Pain

"Pain is inevitable in life but suffering is optional."
    Buddhist Proverb
Have you ever asked yourself the question: Why is there so much suffering in the world?  I know I have, both as I look back over my own life and as I observe those around me.  We seem to have an uncanny knack for creating a lot of pain — I'm speaking particularly of emotional pain more than physical pain, although since the body, mind and spirit are all connected, emotional pain often leads to physical pain down the road.

But what if there's a Divine Purpose to the pain, at least to some of it. Could it be that our experiencing this emotional pain is the way the Universe lets us know where we need to develop ourselves further along our spiritual path.  Stay with me on this one for a moment.

A Couple Simple Examples
The other day Ann and were talking about how we became involved with personal development. For both of us, it came from times in our lives when we were in pain. Ann was going through a divorce from her first husband when she started reading self help books to help her understand and cope with the pain of her divorce which then lead her to programs offered by a local personal development organization.

My first exposure to personal development was from my frustration with being ineffective in communicating what I could do for my clients and their pets as a veterinarian.  I remember one of my favorite sayings at that time was that I knew far more about veterinary medicine than my clients could afford, although deep down I knew that it was really my inability to communicate with them effectively.

However, in both of these cases and many more that I've observed, it usually takes a fairly high amount of pain over an extended period before we finally decide to do anything about it.  Many people seem to have an incredibly high tolerance for suffering.  I believe one of the reasons this is true is because we have several strategies for burying the pain.

How We Bury Our Pain
Here are a few of the primary ways we bury our pain:

Ignore it — Often times, emotional pain builds up slowly. First, we're mildly irritating by our job and co-workers, then as time goes by we find ourselves coming home at night complaining about what this and that, but it's really not that bad, and after all, it's paying the bill, and then there's the weekends to unwind, so we tend to ignore the issues.  Sound familiar?

Deny it — Or we'll simply deny the stuff that's not working in our life.  We put on a smiley face to those around us, and maybe even with ourselves. After all, everyone has problems, right?  But then we start to find ourselves lying awake at night, not able to sleep because some small voice is trying to get our attention.

Justify it — Another common move to is justify the pain. After all, life isn't a bed of roses, and after all, look at how hard everyone else has it.  So, we suck it up and go on suffering, or we…

Mask it — We cover up the pain with numbing agents such as alcohol, or prescription (or non-prescription) drugs, or with one of the most common numbing agencies around — TV, and/or the Internet.  One of my clients used online Backgammon to numb out from his emotional pain.

And occasionally the pain goes away, or the situation that's causing the pain changes.  The boss that was driving you crazy is transferred, or your financial situation changes when a rich uncle dies and leaves you his fortune.  But more often than not, the pain continues and worsens over time until we finally can't ignore it any longer.

Using the Pain to Forward Your Life On Purpose
But if pain has a Divine Purpose, perhaps we don't need to ignore it, justify it, or mask it.  What if we were to embrace it, and use it as a barometer for what's next for us in our continual journey?

For example, for over a decade Ann and I have divided our business and personal responsibilities so she handles the majority of the financial matters.  She's the Chief Financial Officer while I'm the Chief Visionary Officer, so more and more I depended upon her to handle the money matters, in large part because she was willing to do so to support me, and because…well I just didn't want to deal with that aspect of the business or of our family.

And she's done an admirable job of it for the most part, particularly when you take into account that she had to manage it all herself, with very little help from me.

But recently it's become apparent that what was next for me was to create a new relationship to this part of life. What alerted me to this was the emotional pain I often experienced around money and finance. Ann was suffering as well because she felt all alone, often needing to make difficult decisions that she could have used my assistance on making.

One thing we've realized in the twenty-plus years of our marriage is that we're a powerful force to be reckoned with when we're aligned, but we were seldom even in communication about our finances, much less aligned.

Moving from Pain to Purposeful Action
Having identified what's next using our pain as a guide, we've taken purposeful action and in just the first three months are amazed by the results.  One of the simplest and most effective actions is that we're now meeting twice a week for "Fun with Financial Freedom" meetings, something we'd implemented before but then found they worked so well that we quit doing them. But that topic is for another article.

So, what is the emotional pain that you're experiencing and to what purposeful possibility is it trying to guide you to? If you're brave enough, why not share your thoughts and insights right here under comments?