Tag Archives: hurt

Willingness to hurt

It’s a bit of a romance novel cliche – the person who has been hurt and thinks they cannot open their heart or love again. In romance novels that tends to resolve, but in real life often it doesn’t. 

No one wants to suffer (well, aside from masochists but that’s another story). Some of us are perhaps too open to being hurt – family patterns can have us expecting love to be painful and thus not holding good boundaries. However, trying to protect yourself from pain can all too easily mean missing out on a lot of life.

To care is to be open to being hurt. Care invites empathy, and no one and nothing in this world will continue forever in some pristine, untroubled, healthy, happy state. To love someone is to be open to being hurt by whatever hurts them, at the very least. It means loving people, cats, trees etc even though you know that when they die it’s going to hurt unbearably. And yet you choose to bear it.

Sometimes the people you love will let you down. Maybe by accident. Maybe because their needs don’t align with yours. Maybe deliberately. If you aren’t prepared to risk some of that, you can’t have trust, or any kind of depth, or any scope for natural human error.

If you are determined to avoid hurt, you might not be willing to deal with the discomfort of having got something wrong. That shuts down opportunities to learn, and to improve things. It means as soon as something goes wrong, the entire relationship is in trouble. The more set you are on avoiding pain, the more likely it is that you are demanding impossible levels of perfection from everything and everyone around you. That in turn means you’re setting everyone up to fail because you won’t be perfect and neither will they. Pain avoidance becomes, perversely, something entirely likely to get you hurt.

Beyond our human relationships, we need to be willing to get hurt over what is happening with the climate crisis. If we try to insulate ourselves from that, we’re simply going to add to the problem. If we’re willing to be uncomfortable, we can change things. The more we push to try and stay comfortable, the more likely we are to destroy the very things we depend on for that comfort.

If we want what is good in our lives, then we have to be willing to care enough about it that we give it the power to hurt us.

Pain, fatigue and mental health

Pain and fatigue make moving unpleasant. However, if you’re dealing with them for the long haul, you can’t just rest. Too much rest costs you strength, flexibility, other kinds of body health and it also has a mental health impact. Pushing against pain and fatigue to be active can undermine your mental health too. There are no easy answers here, and I think some days there aren’t even any right answers available. You can only do the best you can with what you have. Anyone telling you that some fairly simple thing will magically fix you does not understand the nature of the problem.

When dealing with short term problems, ‘listen to your body’ is good advice. However, when the hurting is long term, and all your body wants to do is avoid pain, this doesn’t work. Modest exercise encourages blood flow which can help with healing. Lymph fluids don’t have any pump to circulate them and they need moving about – which means you have to move about. Muscles get weaker with lack of use, and everything gets harder and hurts more and you circle into even smaller spaces with less scope for living. Keeping moving is hard, figuring out how to do it safely is hard, and not everyone who is a professional in this area reliably knows what is safe for whom. Yoga and mindfulness are not actually good for everyone.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that it may be better to take risks with my body and focus on maintaining my mental health. If I can keep my head together, I can manage the pain and fatigue. If I plunge into depression and anxiety, bodily wellness cannot save me. So, when there’s a tension between different needs, I look most at what will best serve my mental health. There are so many days when listening to my body results in a set of contradictory messages. Bits of me need things that other bits of me will find difficult. I trust my head. In practice, my head is the bit of me that keeps the whole show on the road. If I can focus, if I have willpower to deploy, if I can reason well – I can manage everything else that much better.

It works for me – as well as I think anything can. It may or may not work for anyone else. What you’re dealing with is personal, and probably complicated in its own ways. How you navigate has to be personal, and it has to be based on your needs and priorities. Sometimes, no matter how positive you are, how much you focus on healthy life choices, doing all the right things, sometimes bodies still go wrong and hurt and decline to move much. It may mean you don’t entirely know how to manage some aspect of what you’re dealing with. It may also mean there are things that happen that cannot be managed, they’re just how it goes. When focusing on wellness, it is important to remember that there isn’t always a magic combination that will make you perfectly well, and if your body hurts it is not proof that you’ve failed in some way.

For some people, a change in diet or other lifestyle features can solve a problem – if that’s you, great. But I’ve also watched people trying to find magic bullets for problems and not getting anything to work. I’ve seen that turn into strange, faddish diets that rapidly caused more harm than good. I’ve seen it turn into a fear of doing all kinds of things. If trying to be well is narrowing your life options then it may not be working. Not everything is fixable, and learning to make the best of what you’ve got can be the most helpful and most liberating thing.