When something causes us pain the only thing we want is to make it stop. We want something to make the bad feelings go away and we’ll use whatever works to make that happen. It’s just how we’re wired and it’s been that way since birth.
For example, if Toddler You learned that throwing a tantrum made her feel better, Adult You probably has a tendency to come uncorked and maybe even lash out at whoever or whatever triggered the unpleasant feelings.
Or, if you were given a toy or food as a distraction or to make you stop crying, you’re probably going use that same strategy as an adult. The same pattern could involve TV, shopping, sex, complaining, you name it. Of course, another popular choice for dealing with unwanted feelings is stuffing them down and pretending nothing’s wrong. Whatever the case, if the strategy worked for you at all, you used it again.
The same goes for physical issues too, of course. How many routinely take pain killers to mask headaches and soreness rather than asking why they keep getting them? If you’ve read my ‘Menopause at 32’ story in Living the Life You Love, you know I had a whole list of strategies to avoid dealing with the reason for my own pain and I stayed in a tail-chasing cycle for years.
So, yes, distractions, diversions and denial can work for a while, but it’s kind of like accruing interest charges. It may not seem like that big of a deal at first, but the longer you let it go, the bigger the bill gets—and it’s going to come due in one way or another.
So, what do you do when the pain comes?
First and foremost you recognize it. Through simple awareness, you create a shift. You create a moment between the trigger and the reaction that gives you time for choice—the choice to not automatically react as you always have.
That’s it. You don’t have to have all the answers in that moment. You just have to know that you have choices. As young Captain Kirk said in Star Trek Into Darkness, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”
What you can do is simply not do what you’ve always done in the past. And that changes everything.