Wisdom of wounds
We often think of pain as something to avoid, but treating pain as a type of feedback will help us make sure we grow in the right direction.
A few years ago, my young son and I were making pancakes. I wanted to help my son understand that the griddle that I was cooking on was hot and would burn him. I explained to him that touching the griddle would cause him pain.
As I prepared pancakes, I turned around for a brief moment (a horrible choice, I know), and when I turned back, my son had a face that showed pain and was hiding his hand under the counter.
I asked him if he touched it, to which he replied yes and showed me his burned hand. I shook my head and wondered why he had to touch the hot surface. To this day, he remembers burning his hand and stays far away from the hot griddle surface.
Why couldn't he trust me that it would hurt him? I'm sure every parent has had that same question, but the truth is nothing teaches us as effectively as pain.
Pain communicates information in an incredibly efficient manner. It is the body and the mind's ultimate form of feedback. There are a few different types of pain, and each of them can help us.
Pain that comes from growth
Growing is rarely comfortable. Anyone who has ever lifted weights can attest to how painful those first few days after you start lifting weights can be. The process of breaking down and building up muscles can be painful, but the process leads to a literal greater strength. The same thing can be true of many different activities. Doing something until it sometimes it's painful is often necessary for you to grow.
In this case, the pain that we feel is the feedback that we've hit our wall, and we're growing to overcome it.
Pain that comes from mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, and just like my son's experience with the griddle, sometimes those mistakes are painful. This type of pain is one of the simplest forms of feedback - it's often literally your body saying 'DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!'.
Pain that comes from mistakes is one of the most useful types of feedback we can receive. It posses the ability to help us change our behaviors quicker than nearly any other kind of feedback.
Pain that comes from others
One of the most painful types of feedback we receive is the pain that comes from others. Often emotional pain instead of physical pain that comes from others can be a confusing form of feedback. It can be accidental or abusive, and both can give us useful feedback on how we need to adjust our relationships to be successful.
Pain that that comes from empathy
As we mature, one of the skills that we gain is feeling things we haven't personally felt. Instead of needing to feel the hot griddle ourselves, we can imagine what it would feel like to burn our hand!
We no longer need to experience something ourselves to learn the lesson.
The pain we feel through empathy is the most valuable type of pain because you do not have to experience it yourself! Learning how to sense how others feel and react accordingly can bring untolled benefits as individuals or organizations. Empathy helps you produce solutions that bridge gaps of understanding, repair relationships, and mediate conflicts by putting yourself in another person's shoes.
Turn your wounds into wisdom." ― Oprah Winfrey
When we experience pain, we have two choices: 1.) We can brush it off as quickly as possible 2.) We can treat it as feedback and let it help us make better decisions
The decision is up to you. Next time you feel something uncomfortable, take a second and think about it; "What is my uncomfortableness trying to tell me? How can I use this pain to improve?" And then go and make a better decision than you would otherwise.