One of the untruths about chronic pain is that we have, for reasons known or unknown, chosen it. That if we really wanted to get well, we would.
I do not deny that there is temptation to be a victim, or that there may be things we have done in the past that we know or suspect contributed to our current situation. I do not deny that we can learn from our pain and thereby discover its hidden blessings and even be grateful. But I do deny that we choose to be in pain all or most of the time.
So when I read today's reflection by Diane Mariechild (in Open Mind -- Womens' Spiritual Inspirations for Becoming Mindful), I am glad for the distinction she makes between harmful thinking and clear (or skillful) thinking, using the example of rape and how badly stigmatized it is:
"There is a body of 'new age' thinking that says we choose each of our life experiences because there is something we need to learn. This statement, while containing a partial truth, also contains much confusion...lead[ing] women to feel guilty for 'choosing rape'..."
"Every experience is a powerful teacher," writes Judith Ragir, who is quoted at the top of the page.
Neither Mariechild nor Ragir is saying that we choose our experiences. They are saying that we choose to learn from our experiences. The difference between these two statements is the difference between crippling shame and self-empowerment.
To paraphrase Mariechild: harmful thinking is -- I have chosen chronic pain to learn a lesson; clear thinking is -- I have chronic pain and I choose to transform it into a kind of healing. I have posted often about how chronic pain can be transformed into healing: here and here, for example.
If we have chronic pain our lives are difficult enough without the added burden of thinking ourselves somehow to blame for it or allowing someone to treat us as though we have chosen to be debilitated. Transforming shame to empowerment eases such burdens, and not just for ourselves:
"...I am able to take the energy of this horrible and painful experience and transform it. Then I will heal and this healing will be of benefit for us all because of our deep and often unseen connections."
I would love to hear from you. Please click on Comment, below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.