Purpose of Pain

As an empath, I sometimes struggle to speak my truth in relationships.

I’m aware that speaking up means conflict. Though my adjustment seems outwardly seamless, I noticed in recent relationship dynamics that I was trying to numb myself with unhealthy foods.

Subsequent to a period of days of avoiding speaking up and eating in a way that didn’t nurture my body, I sat down for meditation and felt a throbbing pain in my lower belly.

It was hard to keep my eyes closed as I meditated, hard to truly feel the sensation of pain, and my mind kept running away from the pain into thoughts. For the next little while, I went back and forth between sensing as much as I could of this intolerable pain, going into thoughts to take a break from the sensation, and having warm tears flowing down my face.

The tears felt good, as though something in me was being met with presence. Yet, my sensitive digestive system felt shredded with the low-quality foods. Feeling shredded had to do with how I learned in my childhood to disappear in my relationships. This physical pain was the pain of leaving my integrity with others.

For the first time, the intense feeling of pain was different and felt like a blessing. Instead of my usual experience of numbness, this physical pain was telling me something had to change, that there was an internal limit or boundary that I wasn’t honoring.

Usually, I beat myself up for my food choices.

Instead of having a compassionate inner voice, I criticize myself and end up feeling much worse. But this time felt different—I was not beating myself up. Instead, there was clarity between how I treated myself in relationship with others and in relationship with myself.

Staying present in my meditation, I noticed a small, yet clear voice inside me saying that I need to do things differently. I can no longer continue this self-torturing pattern in my relationships. In fact, it became evident how this pattern plays out in my relationships with friends, money, and work. And, that this pattern needed to change.

We live in a culture where we are disconnected from ourselves. Pain brings up worries of what might be medically wrong with our bodies. Or, we’re used to reaching for something to soothe or alleviate the pain such as medicine, food, alcohol, television…anything to not feel it.


Although it is important to take care of the discomfort in our bodies and to make sure that we receive psychological and medical attention when needed, our bodies also need our presence and attention.

Our bodies speak to us through sensation and pain is an important communication from our bodies.

When you feel physical pain in your body and you have addressed the pain medically as needed, there are some steps you can take with the opportunity the pain provides.

Allow yourself to be present with the sensation.

You may find that staying present means that you might move back and forth between feeling it and not feeling it.

As you stay with your process, allow the stories, images, and feelings to arise and pass. There may be information about what needs to be released, as you allow that information to arise with a light touch. Sometimes it can be difficult to not grab on to the stories that arise, however it is important to return to presence as much as you can to heal patterns.

Allow spaciousness and trust that you are exactly where you need to be in process. There is no rush to “resolve.” Our bodies are our greatest allies in processing what needs to be processed and there is no timeline for what is coming up.

Honor what’s present for you now.

Touch your body where it feels pain. Touching your body gives it the message that you are present with it even when it’s challenging for your mind to be present. There is a soothing element to your touch. If being present with the pain is absolutely intolerable, soothe and relax yourself by bringing your attention to places in your body where the pain may be absent or minimized.

Many of us find it challenging to stay present in our bodies when deep-seated and childhood patterns or experiences arise. In that case, it can be helpful to have the support of a witness, a friend, family member, or a professional to be with you and hold space for your process.

May we all heal the pains that exist unnoticed in our bodies. May our wounds receive our love, presence, and be transformed.

This article is as published on Elephant Journal. Images have been added to this post.

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