Our physiology is built to avoid pain. If we put our finger on something sharp or hot, it will automatically pull away. Only later will our mind engage and consider the experience. Have an emotional reaction. Tell a story about it.
In a similar way, we learn to avoid emotional pain. But if we learn to avoid pain with resistance, we are falling into a trap. Rather than stepping out of a painful circumstance, we are in effect resisting resistance. Fighting fire with fire. The response becomes more difficult than the pain we were trying to avoid.
This is where doing our ‘work’, clearing our baggage and stories is so valuable. We avoid pain by learning not to avoid. Learning to deal with it as it is. Simple. But why is this hard to learn?
The controller. The ego is driven to avoid the pain of being wrong with a drive to be right. The reason for this drive is because ego knows that if it is seen wrong clearly enough, it will be questioned for what it is and will cease. The ego thus discovers that learning to let go of things is dangerous.
While we may think survival of the body is the root of fear, it is not. It is survival of the ego. The core sense of identity or me is the source of fear. The grip is born and with it, fear, denial and resistance. The body itself is fearless. One can experience physical pain without fear. It is the emotional response that brings fear, when the story engages.
When the ego is in charge it will put itself first. It’s own sense of control and story about the world. It will push against or play games with dealing with ones ‘stuff’. In some cases, it is even willing to sacrifice a life to save itself. This is the root of violence.
When emotional pain is more than comfortable, we shift into storage mode. Putting the pain aside to deal with later when the threat has ended. These storage locations are energetic “dead” zones, various crusts, knots, or other energetic resistance in some area of the body or environment. We store them in possessions, in our emotional body, and our physical body.
Because these energy barriers make awareness foggier, the ego often finds this a suitable technique for staying safe. It stirs the drama and will culture emotional and physical pain to keep the attention distracted. It will crank up the story to keep us preoccupied. As biologists have demonstrated, we get stupid when we’re afraid.
This background of resistance and fear becomes the “clouds” that cover our true nature, the source of our love, happiness, creativity, clarity, even the energy that runs it all.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the grip in peoples lives. If you listen for a moment, they will tell you their story, their epic tales of struggle. Their houses overflowing with shoulds. Lists of failed dreams. Lives of quiet desperation. Stress related illness are common. It’s normal to need coffee to function or a drink to cope. Hot buttons of touchy sensitivity. Finances deeply in the red. News media full of empty fear and blame. Look how traumatic it is to downsize or let go of possessions.
Or try this. Ask them when they were last really happy. And you?
We deaden ourselves by going into zombie modes like a rote life of work, sleep and TV. We run on auto-pilot with all of our responses to life as pre-programmed habits. Regurgitating the same stories about what’s wrong and who’s to blame. Or distract ourselves with excess – shopping, alcohol, drugs, food – all those things we might call addictive or escapist. Even some “spiritual” people live in a big house of pain avoidance, telling a story of light and love. We forget what we love.
Ironically, what we’re running from is ourselves. And the fear of pain. More ironically, the fear we have of the pain is worse than the pain itself. Unfaced, it is permanent, like a great weight or shadow on our life. The pain once seen is momentary or brief. This is the difficulty we face in awakening. Seeing through all the drama and stories the ego has created. Most ironically of all, to protect itself from suffering.
Awakening itself is simple. It is just seeing who we already are. Under the story.