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Published:June 21st, 2011 11:08 EST
Is PAIN a healer?

Is PAIN a healer?

By Ignatius Fernandez

"We should be careful to get out of an experience, all the wisdom that is in it." Mark Twain

After mom`s death, dad was the only family John had. But dad had problems with John - caused by his uncontrolled anger. In a huff he often walked out of home, only to return later. Once he asked dad for a car. Dad promised to give him the car, if his grades at university improved. John agreed and kept his part of the deal. Now, it was dad`s turn to keep his part.

On Sunday, at breakfast, dad passed John a copy of the Bible. The Bible was flagged. John was furious. He expected the car and not a copy of the Bible. In rage, he flung the Bible to the floor and walked out, never to return. His dad waited for him for days, weeks, months, until he could wait no longer - he died. He was saddened with his son leaving home and died a disheartened man.

Years later, John visits his father`s home, and drifts into the dining room. On the floor he spots the Bible his father had given him. Opening the flagged page, he sees a key stuck to the page with a note that read: "Son, enjoy driving the car. I love you. dad." A passage in the Bible was marked which read: "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able."

In uncontrolled grief John sinks to his knees and weeps aloud. He laments his folly, his anger, and begs his dead father for forgiveness.

This story gives us examples of two types of pain - one that comes from grief, of separation, of unrequited love and the other from guilt and regret. Both hurt; both heal. Perhaps, John`s dad, in his pain reached a  point of reconciling with his son`s anger and irresponsible behavior, before his death. We do not know for sure. What we do know is that John changed his ways after he repented. His pain led to reform - so the story goes on to narrate.

In his thought-provoking book Ageless body, Timeless mind, Deepak Chopra writes:

 "Pain in the present is experienced as hurt.
  Pain in the past is remembered as anger.
  Pain in the future is perceived as anxiety."

How true! We are hurt by an insult, which becomes anger when we recall the incident and are anxious when we confront the person who insulted us, fearing a recurrence. That is the ordinary response; the mundane reaction.

Is there another way? Yes, there is, if only we try. Pain can be chastening; reforming. Only those who are enlightened by pain and suffering can understand the positive side to pain. From our own experiences we recall the benefits we derived from pain - a balanced view, a more mature attitude to life.

How does the logic work? Doubtless, there is a terrible logic to it. Let us try to understand the unmistakable signs that go with pain.

 1) There is distress. Why should it happen to me? What wrong have I done? It is unfair.
 2) There is bitterness against the one who caused the pain.
 3) There are terrible memories of the incident.
 4) There is a slow acceptance of the situation, when we compare our pain with the pain of others who suffer more.
 5) In stages the positives begin to emerge - we were insulted, but we did not retaliate; it showed that we have some self control.
 6) In hindsight we realize that the damage was not as serious as we imagined.
 7) In time, we begin to like our response. We acted better than we thought we could; we showed some stability. That insight leaves us better prepared for similar situations.

It is not that all pain ends in positives. It is the attitude to pain that counts. If the attitude is of self pity and bitterness, then the healing may be unduly long in coming, or may never come. Some people die in their bitterness. But if the attitude is of learning, the experience of pain is converted into huge gains. That does not discount the fact that pain in all forms is unwelcome. However, when we decide to benefit from the experience, we rise above its influence. As Mark Twain rightly put it: we should get wisdom out of every experience - even if the experience brings only pain. We will learn that pain is an unconditional healer. Like the surgeon`s scalpel, it hurts to heal.

Japan discovered the path to stoic recovery after the earthquake and nuclear spill. They found that what does not kill makes you stronger. Perhaps the prisoner who spent six years behind bars has a lesson for us. To a friend who met him on the day of his release, he confided that the six years were the best part of his life. It gave him time to examine his life, surrender himself to God and promise to change his ways. The pain of prison had healed him. PAIN is a healer; there is no doubt.