Liv explains how abusing your pain actually makes it worse and why respecting it will feel so much better, even while it hurts like hell.
I’ll say one thing for humankind: we aren’t scared of pain. In fact, a lot of us don’t know how to live without it. We’re so into pain, we’ll spend hours binge-watching other people’s pain. Some of us even take pride in causing pain for others.
You’ve heard of the starving artist, the long-suffering rockstar, the emotionally stunted genius who pushes people away and treats them like shit so they won’t see how beautifully screwed up he is about his own pain (I’m looking at you, Dr. House).
This is an abusive relationship. Except, it isn’t pain that’s abusing us. It’s us who’re abusing pain.
Pain tells us some really significant information: Don’t touch open flames. Don’t trust a chronic liar. Don’t forget sunscreen in the desert. Please, do not run back to the partner that kept stabbing you in the back with their knife of betrayal.
More importantly, pain guides us to our shadows so we can shine a light on them and befriend them. Pain has helped me see where I sabotage myself by not speaking honestly, by not setting healthy boundaries, and by giving without allowing myself to receive.
All the tears and gut-wrenching cries induced by pain to teach me who I am and who I’m not and how to keep myself safe.
Pain does the same for you. You need only listen.
Join me as I explore this relationship and how you can begin shifting your perspective so the pain isn’t such an overwhelming experience.
- Nisha Moodley [the woman whose retreat I went to]
- The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins
- Click to Read Full Transcript
[00:23] Hello, and welcome to Self-Aware Millennial, the podcast for people seeking a joyously authentic life. I'm Liv Hadden, your very excited host, and I want to thank you so much for being here. This is my first recording post my leadership retreat in Bali, and I just have to tell you, it was hands down the most amazing experience of my life to date, at least on my journey towards self-awareness and finding my inner joy and living in authenticity. It was with a woman named Nisha Moodley. She was far more fabulous than I anticipated. I don't tend to be one of those people that does the online stalking, like I don't Google someone's name, find all their profiles, look into things. I kind of just go with gut feeling and gut feeling told me that whether Nisha was a good facilitator or not, I was going to get something out of it.
[01:28] So it was just a huge bonus that this woman was just fucking phenomenal on top of that, and I mean that in like a person to person way. She was just a really cool person. She's someone that I would totally just hang out with. She was really real and down to earth and she didn't have any of that ego or guru type vibe that a lot of these types of retreats tend to put off. She was just a really real person with a lot of really great knowledge, a gift, and she's out there sharing it with the world. So this is me saying thank you and expressing my gratitude for her and the experience and space that she's created for women like me, and I'm really excited to share some of the things that I learned from her, from the other women in the group, from myself, uh, and some of the breakthroughs and things I made as the season goes on. Today specifically, I really want to acknowledge the bravery of the women and men sharing their stories and standing for other victims in relationship to sexual assault and the rape culture that we live in.
[02:52] If you are easily triggered by these types of conversations, don't worry. I'm not going to go too deep into it. I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that the past couple of years have been especially tough for survivors, and I'm just really wowed by and humbled by all of the people who are standing up, who are willing to be uncomfortable, and who are using their voices to create change. Much much needed change and I also want to acknowledge the people who are suffering in silence. That's not an easy place to be in either and it can take the same amount of bravery and courage to wake up every single day and continue to live your life and try to work through all of the emotions and memories that you have. I think it's a huge blessing that we have people speaking out now so that the people who are not in a space to, don't feel safe to, aren't ready to speak out, know that they're not alone.
[04:03] There really are so many people dealing with their own versions of this kind of trauma, and it's horrible and at the same time comforting. So I'm just acknowledging that some of us are in a really tough space with this. And thank you for existing and for continuing to be. In and of that, I thought that this week might be a good time to touch on shame and grief and our relationship to pain because one of the longest lasting consequences of sexual abuse or misconduct or whatever you want to put after that word is the shame, the lasting shame. A lot of victims internalize and make it their fault. The thought patterns are so similar in any situation where you have any kind of shame to deal with. It's all about something being wrong with you as a person and maybe it's worth mentioning. There's a difference between shame and guilt.
[05:09] I think sometimes people tend to dump them in the same bucket because I think initially they can kind of feel the same, but there is a big difference between them. I like the way that Brené Brown explains this. Guilt is feeling bad for a specific behavior, so you feel guilty that you did X to this person. Shame is feeling bad about who you are, that there's something wrong with you. It's 10 times more toxic, not nearly as useful and tends to last for a lot, lot, lot, lot longer because you're basically trying to convince yourself that you are unworthy and that's not true, so you're basically just telling yourself a lie over and over and over again. It's something that we are not taught how to experience and it's something a lot of us get stuck in and we get stuck in these loops of shame and grief and I think it's really interesting because if you think about how we hold onto positive emotions, we don't get into these loops where we just hold onto it and relive it.
[06:15] If we did, we probably wouldn't have to talk about shame so much because we'd be living in happiness loops, but we're much better at processing happiness and joy and excitement. We, we let ourselves feel it and we let ourselves feel it fully in many cases, and then we let it go. It just moves through us. That's how energy works with shame spirals, as I like to call them when I'm experiencing them with shame spirals. You tend to get stuck in it. You kind of root... you either dig your heels in and you don't want to walk through the process. You don't want to go any further into experiencing those feelings because they hurt. They're painful, they're not necessarily fun. They don't make you smile, and there's also this feeling that there's no one who's going to want to deal with your bullshit. There's no one who's going to be there for you when you're in the shame spiral, so you dig your heels in, you try not to go through it, but then you're stuck in this cyclone of just nasty, nasty thoughts and it just gets worse and worse and worse.
[07:23] It's like if you didn't take care of a wound, you know, like let's say you got a big gash somewhere and instead of cleaning it out and letting it heal, you just let it fester and get disgusting. That's kind of what we tend to do with our shame and with our grief. That's one thing I can say for humankind. We aren't scared of pain. A lot of people think they're scared of it, but we often choose to live in it constantly. Over and over and over again and I would argue there are even some of us who don't know how to live without it. There was a period of my life where I was kind of scared to move through and move on because I didn't know what else there was. I didn't know what else life could look like if I wasn't constantly in pain.
[08:12] I had gotten so used to living like that and when I think about it in a pop culture sense, we culturally are kind of so into pain. We actually spend hours binge-watching other people's pain. Part of that might be feeling connected to something and part of it I think is just this fascination of how are other people dealing with this? What are other people doing with it? Is there something I should be doing different? And then on the flip side of kind of the festering, some people actually take pride in causing pain to others. So there's kind of this weird sick relationship that we as a culture have with pain. I think a brilliant archetype of this is the starving long-suffering rockstar. You know the emotionally stunted genius: he pushes people away and treats them like shit so they won't see how beautifully screwed up they are about their own pain.
[09:11] Cough, cough, Dr. House. At the end of the day, this type of relationship with pain, this type of perspective on pain is actually really abusive, but in my opinion, it's not the pain that's abusing us. It's us who are abusing the pain, so let me kind of break that thought pattern down for you. Consider this. People love to compare their pain to see whose is worse. Hell, we even cause ourselves pain by judging others because we feel bad because we aren't suffering as much as someone else. So, I'm sure some of you have felt guilty for your privilege or the food on your plate or whatever abundance you're experiencing because someone else is suffering more and because they're suffering, you shouldn't be allowed this moment of satisfaction or this life of satisfaction or whatever it is you're experiencing. You feel guilty or in my opinion, you feel shame, about the life you're living because it's enough.
[10:18] To me, that's an obsession and unhealthy relationship with pain. You're willingly walking into this spiral of pain. We beat pain up. Then we beat ourselves up. Then we kick pains ass some more, and I'm not talking about the people who stare pain in the face and they say no more. I'm moving on. I'm talking about those aggressive proclamations where people are like, I'm a fucking hot mess—deal with it. And it's like this, "I'm a hot mess. I'm always going to be a hot mess. I live in the pain. The pain is part of me and you will just have to deal with my martyrdom in the pain." I just think that poor pain has such a bad reputation and it's so ill-deserved when you really think about it. Pain is a teacher just like any other emotional or physical experience we have and it's a thankless job to be pain, but it's so important.
[11:17] Pain lets us know when we're experiencing joy and some of us require that lesson over and over again. We forget what joy feels like, how to access joy, how important it is, and pain is a constant reminder of this. I actually met a woman once when I was young, I want to say I was maybe 13 and her pain receptors didn't work properly so she could touch really hot things without realizing it or cut herself without a flinch, and one day she was out on a hike in the middle of a boiling Texas August and her body really needed to slow down, drink some water, find some shade. She couldn't feel the pain and she kept going until she collapsed, so because she didn't have that teacher that reminder, hey, take care of yourself. Check in with yourself. She passed out. She hurt herself. Now think about how badly you already tend to score yourself.
[12:19] Think about the thought patterns you get and think about those loops you go in where you call yourself stupid. You call yourself dumb. You tell yourself you're not good enough. You tell yourself you're worthless. You tell yourself you're unlovable. Whatever your stories are that are connected to your shame, imagine how badly you might scar yourself if you didn't feel that pain. If it was just not there at all, what worse things might you be saying to yourself? How much more often might you be saying it? Would you even be in the process of trying to seek more joy or happiness? Would you even try to do better? It's an interesting thing to consider and contemplate. I just really think if we can reframe this concept of pain as something that tells us and gives us significant information like don't touch open flames. Don't trust a chronic liar.
[13:11] Don't forget sunscreen in the desert. Please do not run back to the partner that kept stabbing you in the back with their knife of betrayal. All of those things are really important things that pain reminds us and tells us. So if we can shift our perspective and say, ah, pain teacher, yes, what are you telling me? What do I need to know? What do I need to feel? And I think even more importantly in the context of a self-awareness journey, pain guides you to your shadow so that you can shine light on it. There are so many aspects of ourselves that we ignore that we don't want to think about, that we don't want to embrace because they're either attached to some sort of shame or pain, or we were told when we were really young that that was not important or it was stupid or it was any of those things that it was something that you should ignore and not make relevant.
[14:08] Well, what happens is what you resist persists and so those shadow aspects of yourself end up sabotaging you in the long run and whether that's self-sabotage, sabotaging somebody else, keeping you playing small, whatever those things are, when you aren't in touch with those shadow aspects of yourself, you can't change them. You can't work on them. You can't build the self-awareness you need around them. And so the really beautiful thing that pain offers is an opportunity to find those things, to call them into the light, to acknowledge them and in a lot of cases, embrace them and sometimes you just let them go. It's very situation dependent, but either way it's a really important thing that pain does for us. So, for example, my pain in very recent history has helped me see where I sabotage myself by not speaking honestly, by not setting healthy boundaries and by giving, without allowing myself to receive.
[15:12] So those were all shadow aspects of myself and there are very specific reasons that I was not doing those things. However, I don't know that I would have uncovered them if I wasn't causing myself, or if pain, wasn't constantly knocking on my door and going, hey, you're not speaking. Honestly. You're not speaking your truth. Hey, this is hurting you to do this. You might want to stop doing this. If pain hadn't constantly reminded me, I probably wouldn't have gotten through that. I probably would have gone my whole, if not most of my life, without fixing that, without embracing those parts of me that were scared, without exploring what my life might look like, if I embrace those parts of myself and I let go of the parts that weren't mine. So all of the tiers, all the gut-wrenching cries induced by pain taught me who I am, who I'm not, and how to keep myself safe.
[16:10] Pain does the same for you. You need only listen. Now I know some of you are thinking, I hate pain. I do everything I can to avoid it. That probably isn't entirely true and even if it is, it's a mistake. The answer isn't avoidance. It's respect. If you acknowledge your pain, feel it deeply, feel it fully, learn from it, then you can try to do better the next time. Now I'm not talking about chronic depression. Yes, that is painful as hell and qualifies as pain and there's more going on there than that. It's not necessarily a direct result of a decision you made and it's not necessarily a teaching lesson. Chronic depression is beyond my expertise and the people I know who manage their depression best don't fight it and they don't cling, cling to it. They acknowledge it's part of who they are and they listen when it says something loud enough like rest or take a break or take your meds.
[17:06] So I'm not qualifying this across all boards. Your situation is unique and yours and you are actively practicing self-awareness, so tune into that. Check in with yourself. Is this me in a shame spiral attached to my pain or is this a chemical imbalance and I need to just do some basic self-care? I need to talk to a doctor, I need to get some meds, and if you feel unclear about that, talk to somebody; either somebody who is kind of going through the same thing as you or a therapist or a trusted confidante. If you need help deciphering which is which, because at first they can kind of feel and look like the same thing, please ask for help. This is exactly why I went on that retreat. There were so many things that I was kind of like, I feel like it's this, but I know it's this and things were just muddy and I wanted the feedback and safety of a group to help me weed through that stuff and because I had that outside perspective and even just hearing things I knew with clarity from somebody else helped me go, okay, yep, I'm ready to make this decision.
[18:15] Whereas before I kind of felt stuck in limbo. Now I'm not suggesting dumping a pile of fake positivity onto your pain. To me that's just masking. It's another way to avoid it and it's another way to deny yourself the lesson. Whatever hurts feels that way for a reason. Working to understand why is self-awareness so throwing platitudes and false gratitude on it is the business of denial. Emotional intelligence isn't transcending your emotions or stuffing them inside forever. It's understanding what you're feeling, why you're feeling it, and acting accordingly. You don't have to sanitize your pain or deny it or be more thankful for it than you are for your joy. So for example, I have a gratitude practice. I know I've talked about it several times and if I'm feeling like total shit, I don't make myself say, I'm so thankful. I'm feeling like total shit. Now I do try to examine what the positives are and it might be I'm thankful that I'm allowing myself to cry about this pile of shit or it might be I'm grateful that this, that I know this will only last for a moment.
[19:22] I am grateful that I know that one day I won't feel this way anymore, but you don't have to try to be super positive about it and always look for the silver lining. Now, if that's something that helps you, please do it as long as it's genuine and authentic to you. If that doesn't feel genuine and authentic and it feels more right to say, this fucking sucks, then say that. Do that. You don't need to pretend that you're happy about this. You just need to be very real with yourself and give yourself the space to be however you are with it because pain is a part of who you are and as every other part of you, it deserves respect. I'm pretty blunt with my pain and move through it quickly now because I recognize this relationship with it and I pretty much just look at it head-on and I say, okay, what are you teaching me?
[20:10] What do I need? How can I take care of you right now and I do everything in my power based on what the answer is. If that feels too stark for you, if your relationship to pain needs more layers than have a brief love affair with it, go ahead and soak in the pain. Give yourself, you know, three days, a week, a month, whatever it is you need for your situation to just kind of be in it, but set that deadline. Know that that's not how you're going to stay forever, that you're going to let it run its course and that one day it's going to end as all affairs do. Just make sure you have plenty of healthy and you treat yourself well through the process. Don't stop showering or being social or doing the things that bring you joy or sleeping regularly. Do your best to maintain your self-care routine as much as humanly possible while you're having this love affair with the pain.
[21:06] If you want a little actionable to kind of check in with yourself on this for the next month, anytime you feel something akin to pain, just make a mental note. So I mean all kinds of pain. So stubbing your toe, telling a lie, hearing the truth, eating bad shrimp. It doesn't matter if it hurts any part of you, just make a mental note. I do this by literally saying, ouch because it's already a habit and it acts as a marker. What that will do is kick your conscious mind into, oh, this hurts, and then you can observe how you respond. You're going to have automatic responses. You've already carved out neural pathways. You have muscle memory going. Your body is going to respond to that pain in a very specific way that you have basically programmed yourself to respond and now because you've kicked in the mental note of, Oh, that was pain.
[22:01] You can watch what you do and start observing your habits, and that in and of itself is building self-awareness. That will help you understand, okay, when someone calls me a name, my heart rate rises, my neck sweats, and I start thinking about this, this particular set of memories or this thought pattern, and I ended up feeling like this at the end of it. Once you can kind of objectively lay that, and I say objectively very loosely, once you can kind of familiarize yourself with your pain process, you can actually start to figure out where you might want to make some changes, so you might decide to do. If you listen to the last episode, Mel Robbins, five, four, three, two, one trick. So you might go out, okay, I'm watching myself go through the spiral. I want to stop the spiral here. Five, four, three, two, one.
[22:56] I am enough. I am lovable. I am worthy. Or whatever your anchor thought is. My anchor thought for a long time was don't take anything personally. So if somebody said something to me that caused me pain, five, four, three, two, one. Don't take anything personally. Don't take anything personally. And that got me out of my own head and into considering, okay, where are they coming from? What is their perspective? If they said this to me, there's a good chance that they're experiencing their own pain and this is part of their pain response, okay, this isn't about me. I don't need to internalize this and then I could kind of move forward, so again, the action would be for the next month. Anytime you feel anything remotely like pain, physical, emotional, mental, just make a mental note of that and then observe yourself, observe your pain processes, and if you do for a week and you feel like, okay, I've done this for a week, I want to move forward.
[23:48] Try The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins. It's been a huge lifesaver for me. If you didn't listen to that episode, just to recap, she actually reversed all of her anxiety, all of her chronic depression, and all of her postpartum symptoms with this rule, and the idea is just that you're kicking your prefrontal cortex and so your analytical brain kicks in so that you can consciously participate in these behavior patterns and what's happening. Your body can't physiologically tell the difference between experiencing fear and anxiety or experiencing excitement. So the only thing that's different when you're afraid than when you're excited is what you tell yourself about that physiological experience. So you can actually retrain, rewire your brain to interpret that as excitement or as something positive to get yourself out of those panic loops. So if you haven't checked Mel Robbins or The 5-Second Rule out, highly recommend. I will link to her work in the show notes, and if you didn't listen to last week's episode, I highly recommend doing that. If you want to skip right to Mel's portion, just go to the show notes on selfawaremillennial.com at the bottom. I've got a little time marker. If you click that, it'll automatically speed up to the space where she starts talking. That is all for me
[25:15] today. I am going to be on another leadership retreat from the October 7th to the 11th. So you'll be hearing this. I recorded this episode before I left, so you'll be hearing this on that Tuesday that I'm there and I'll, I'll be coming back on the 16th. So I'll also the next episode will also be pre-prerecorded. Not that you knew this, but I normally do them the day or two before just to make sure that I feel like it's fresh and relevant to what's happening in the world. However, with all the travel that I've been doing, this seemed like the smartest thing because the last time I tried to record during a trip you will remember that I felt completely incapacitated and unable to do that. It was just so much emotional lifting. I was exhausted, so anyway, I'll be at that retreat again.
[26:05] It's, it's a different style. It's a women's retreat as well. However, it's a leadership retreat. However, it's a very different style. We're going to be in a different place. I'm really excited to experience this, especially so soon after my other experience. Um, and to just get more really great knowledge. I think I might be really pooped by the end of the month just with all of this. However, I think it's going to be a really content exhaustion. The, the content exhaustion of self care. It's like when you go on a really lovely, wonderful vacation and you come home and you're tired from it, that's probably how I'm going to feel. Oh, I do want to let you guys know that a huge result of my time in Bali is that I'm going to completely restructure how SAMfam is working. You know, I kind of knew this at the time I did it, but I didn't know what else to do.
[27:04] The Patreon thing just doesn't feel right, and it feels really close to my heart and really important to cultivate community to create a place where you and me and others like us can kind of come together and be in a really safe, inspiring, empowered place to talk about these things and to knowledge share and to feel supported and be witnessed in our journey. And Patreon really doesn't create community. It's just about, you know, giving you guys extra perks but it doesn't have that community element. So that's missing for me. So I'm going to suspend SAMfam membership for now, and I'm in the middle of some really intense content planning and creating a different way that we can do membership a different way that we can handle SAMfam. So stay tuned for that. And in the meantime, remember, I love you and I like you.