“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
― C.G. Jung
I’ve been writing about redeeming pain and, frankly, I’m sick of it (you can click away from this page, but I have to live here). This is the last post in this series.
In summary, pain is your friend. Deal with it. Trying to avoid pain is impossible. It just makes it worse and screws up your life (Part 1). If you’re gonna suffer either way, suffer to transform your life into what you once dreamed it could be (Part 2). Why waste the pain? You can either complain or create (Part 3).
In addition to being a catalyst for transformation and creative expression, embracing our pain makes us more compassionate toward the pain of others.
He was six years old. I called him over to me and motioned for him to sit on my lap. I think I had been fighting with my wife and I just wanted to sit in my son’s presence. There’s nothing like the wide-eyed adoration of your children to make you believe all the effort to raise them is worth it. But he wouldn’t listen.
“Come sit with Daddy.” I’m sure the tone in my voice the second time was more intense.
He climbed up into my lap, but his squirming made it clear he’d rather go back to whatever he was doing. I was being denied the comfort and validation I sought. He elbowed me and I pushed him off my lap.
“Fine, go!” I yelled.
Anger over my son’s perceived rejection was instantly mixed with shame over my reaction.
Later that week I sat in a counseling session and recounted the event to my therapist.
35 years ago, on the other side of the window in the accompanying picture, I lay on my bed beating my head with a toy baseball bat.
“What were you feeling?” my counselor asked.
I searched in the darkness for an answer, but nothing came to mind except, “I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t know what that means.”
I kept repeating it to the counselor over and over again, “I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t know what that means. I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t know what that means.”
My head swelled with the words and I just wanted the confusing thoughts to stop. “I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t know what that means.” My counselor watched as I started to beat on my forehead with my fist. “I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t know what that means.” No matter how hard I hit myself, I couldn’t get the words out of my head.
I left counseling that day bruised and exhausted. I didn’t have any answers as to what the hell was going on with me as a kid. But I knew in my gut that it hurt bad to be six years old… because I had just relived it.
I thought of my six-year-old son. I pictured him in bed beating his head with a bat. It made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted to hold him and let him know that I understood how hard it was to be such a helpless little guy in such a big confusing world.
That night, I tucked him in and lay next to him. I cried and told him I was sorry for pushing him away. Until I encountered the hurting child within myself, I had no compassion for my boy.
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ — all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness — that I myself am the enemy who must be loved — what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
I am the selfish enemy who didn’t get the adoration he wanted from his young son so he turned on him. But why? Because the enemy is actually a neglected child who is so insecure, he wouldn’t know what to do with attention if he got any. “I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone…” and until this moment I didn’t know what that means.
Compassion for my son depended on me having compassion for myself, and I couldn’t do that until I embraced my pain.
Yes, I am my own worst enemy, but Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. I had to start with receiving unconditional love.
As my guru, Steve Brown, says, “You can’t love until you’ve been loved, and then you can only love to the degree to which you have been loved.”