Time, Pain and the Long Term Victory

I write quite a lot about the heavier elements of life, that being in pain, loss, grief, etc. I’ve always said that it’s important to write and reflect on it, primarily because it is often avoided in a pretty unhealthy way by a whole bunch of people, but simultaneously it’s pretty important to not make it the primary point of your life and create a shitty story for yourself.

What I mean by this is it’s really easy to have your mind focus on the current moment of suffering or sadness and allow that to make your day a slow, painful one that takes forever to pass, but five years later, it seems like a blip on the radar.

The reality is that it is a blip on the radar, even in the moments of shitty times. The issue is that very often our stress response goes way up, and we don’t learn how to remain calm in the face of that stress but let it consume us instead.

Ever notice how slow and laborious time feels when you’re hyper stressed about something and in a panic? Painful moments seem like they last forever on those days, because we allow it to take over our cognitive functions to such a degree that the only thing we focus on is the pain, sadness, etc.

But that isn’t the way to go about it, and while stress and pain are not bad things in and of themselves – both being an indicator that action must be taken – it’s not a good idea to hyper focus on them so much that it becomes a forever treadmill of shin splints over the course of ten minutes, which feels like ten hours 50% of 85% of the 30 years the ten years are stretched out in…in the span of ten minutes. People who have really felt the pain and focused on it understand this sentence.

You have to learn to exhale -literally, exhale the CO2 in your system – and focus onto something other than the pain, and tune into solving the problem rather than the sensations experienced.

The example I can give is some of the shit I had to deal with in 2020. It was a pretty rough year all things considered, but when I write that, I also tend to look at it and think “but was it, really?”.

It’s weird for me to reflect on it and feel like it was just yesterday, but also a whole load of “getting things done”, because I look at where I am now relative to that period, and recognize that most of 2020 was me spent focusing on sorting things out and getting myself back on track – skeletons out of the closet and onto my Halloween stand, basically.

2020 flew by, but I also distinctly recall moments in 2020 where moments felt like they lasted five years. Those moments were the moments of utter shit and misery, but I can also reflect on them and recognize that I really didn’t get much done on those days, either. I was just a mess and my focus was primed into the pain and misery, the self-blame, the woe is me, etc etc.

It was actually pretty pointless and got me nowhere. They’re the most vivid memories, but their importance lies not in the pain I endured during those memories, but the actions I took in response to that pain, and those memories remind me that my focus was off and I was making a mistake.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, pain is a purifier – it is what gives you the gigantic bitch slap of reality that can get you back on track, but it’s really important not to make it the focus when in pain. Have it be what it is meant to be – the signal that something needs to change. The focus lies in the actions to facilitate change.

When you exhale the focus onto an action rather than inhale sharply to further enrich the suffering you’re in, you’re diverting attention to action rather than interoception, which is vital in order to get past whatever it is you’re going through. Whether it be dealing with physical pain, psychological suffering, loss, etc, your focus shouldn’t be on sitting down and feeling that pain out, but towards changing your environment in some way that provides the results necessary for normal functioning.

This tends to go against much of the mainstream counseling solutions that some people tend to promote, which is “reliving your trauma” or whatever. I don’t agree with that at all – I see no value in reliving painful memories over and over when all it does is constantly fire up those neurons and refresh them. Why the hell would you want to refresh it? Why would you want to put your hand on a hot stove over and over?

My solution is to quit focusing on it and let your mind know it is no longer important – the past doesn’t exist anymore, after all. Why focus on it?

Focus on actions that provide the ability to bear fruits in the future. The long term plan always wins, and by focusing on these things, years will fly by and you’ll look back, notice how many years have gone by and wonder why you even thought those purportedly “terrible” moments of your past were so “terrible”.

2020 basically looks like that to me now. At the time, moments of intense pain and suffering – but it was only because I had focused on the wrong things in those moments.

Every other moment of focusing on actions made 2020 fly by, and now I’m in 2021, enjoying Spooktober and doing really, really well.

Cheers, big ears.

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