The 5 Powers of Pain
January 16, 2023 Written by Brett Levine MD
Very few people like pain.
We spend decades studying, learning and training to help relieve the pain in others.
We instinctively avoid pain when it comes to our physical bodies.
Unless we want to build muscle and know that there is a fine line between growth and injury.
And walk that line to improve our strength and our endurance.
Our minds have some similarities to our muscles.
So let’s discuss the 5 Powers of Pain.
RED FLAG. Pain acutely identifies some change. Something different from normal. Pain wakes us up to a problem but also to a potential change that is needed. Pain reveals an opportunity to learn something new. To act differently. To change.
POWER 1: Listen to the wake up call of pain. Ask yourself what is it telling you? What is different? What do you need? Why are you in pain?
REACTION. Pain triggers an automatic response. A habit of how we think and have lived up to this point. In medicine, we learn how to manage a crisis from our education, training and experience. We become less reactive and more intentional and methodical. In life, we often are not aware of how we react outside of work. Do you freeze? Do you run? Do you fight?
POWER 2: Our unconscious reaction is an opportunity for self-discovery. To contemplate if our innate response serves us. Not the past us. But the future us. Who we want to be. This is where the opportunity for change and growth lies hidden. Rather than reflexively reacting like we always have. Listen to what you are saying to yourself in your head. Does it serve who you want to be? What would the person you wish you could have done in this instance? Rather than run away from another limitation, consider a different action and take it.
PURPOSE. Pain has many purposes. The benefit of my failures, mistakes, obstacles and crises are that they wake me up.
Pain Is necessary to trigger change. How much more pain do you need? Crises ensure that we can not stay here any longer. When life is easy, breezy, we have no motivation to change.
POWER 3: The pivotal purpose of pain is the realization that a change is necessary or everything stays the same. Do you want to quit or learn? What do you need to learn?
FOCUS. We naturally want to avoid pain. Until we realize and accept its purpose. Bodybuilders push themselves into pain with the balance of preventing injury. Whenever we try something new, it is uncomfortable but we focus on the prize on the other side. I have heard and seen that delivering a baby is incredibly painful for mothers but the promise and excitement of a baby to love and raise overpowers the fear of pain.
POWER 4: When we attach our pain to the purpose of arriving closer to our dreams, pain can become a doorway rather than a roadblock. We focus on the other side of the pain when completing an Iron Man or a Board exam. Where is your focus? Rather than focus on the problem, obstacle or pain, why not focus on your dream and your better future. What is your dream once you grow stronger through the pain?
PRACTICE. Our first workout is never easy. But the second may be a tiny bit easier. Our first speech can be a terrifying nightmare but our 20th may become fun. Our first surgery will be slow, methodical and stressful but when we are done, we are proud and excited for the next one.
Pushing ourselves through pain takes practice. Like any skill we develop and improve. Over and over again.
POWER 5: How can you push yourself into discomfort? What uncomfortable situation are you willing to step into? What baby step can you take today?
GROWTH: The more you practice, the better you will become. Until what you learn is no longer painful and you have grown!
On our life journey, pain has a purpose. The struggle is necessary. To make us stronger and better.
Reaction. Purpose. Focus. Practice. Growth.
To break us out of being stuck where we are.
To force us to grow into a better future where we want to be.
These are the powers of pain.
Your happiness is worth it.