“When you’re experiencing something painful, keep your eyes open. Closing them merely intensifies the pain.”
We all experience pain. What varies is the type (e.g., physical, emotional, both), duration (e.g., short- or long-term), frequency (e.g., single event, episodic, recurring, chronic), and intensity (e.g., acute, dull). The sources of pain are as diverse as all the possible colors that can be created from red, blue, and yellow. I personally abhor pain, but most people do. None of us can avoid it. But we can control our reactions to it and our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that result from it.
Today I just want to give one bit of advice in managing pain, regardless of its type or intensity: Keep your eyes open. Literally and metaphorically. I first learned this in Lamaze class when preparing for the birth of my older daughter. The instructor said to keep my eyes open during labor because shutting them would increase the intensity of the pain. When our eyes are closed we focus more sharply on the thing foremost on our minds. When a baby is trying to come out of your body, you are focused pretty much on one thing (and it’s usually not how adorable s/he is going to be!).
I later realized that the metaphorical aspects of this advice were equally important for traversing emotional pain. When I separated from my (then) husband about a year after my daughter was born and started going through a divorce, I faced pain and isolation the depths of which I never knew existed. One of my mentors — a retired military officer — advised, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” I realized his sage advice was letting me know that the awfulness was time limited. He was right.
If — and when — you are going through pain in it’s various forms, take comfort in knowing that the intensity won’t last. Put the situation in perspective by making sure that it isn’t your sole focus. And keep your eyes open so you can see the better things that are to come.
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