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Vancouver Integrative Counseling Blog

Finding purpose in our pain: What keeps us moving?

I am offering a four part blog series on finding purpose in pain and invite you to use as it prompts to journal or chat about during the week. It’s great food for thought about what makes up keep moving through pain, how do we think of pain, process and indicators of healing, and can provide you some insight on internal strengths and capabilities you may have overlooked.


Therapy is often hard work and to some degree painful. The healing process often challenges us to a depth that requires us to focus on internal reserves and supports to sustain the discomfort in the beginning phases. While we can identify safe ways to explore sensitive areas of life, feelings that emerge may incite us to hesitate or question the process at one time or another. In my practice, we open this dialogue to be careful not to internalize doubt as a reflection of self or competence, but frame it as a normal response when challenged.


When we reflect about our life, we can likely identify numerous times wherein skepticism about our capacity felt like a giant rock blocking the entry to somewhere we wanted to be. Thoughts such as, “can I really do this” may have entered your mind when faced with a job opportunity, a leadership role, a performance sport, or physical rehabilitation. The act of challenging self often runs parallel to feelings of angst and uncertainty.


In terms of emotional healing, we may contemplate our abilities somewhat longer as we are engaging in work that challenges us to move inward toward emotional discomfort rather than out of it. Like a physical injury that requires a degree of pain to foster healing, in therapy we are asking ourselves to move toward what has hurt us. Naturally, that is uneasy to sit with and contradictory to our automatic responses to avoid pain as well as certain cultural messages of “fast fixes.” It is in those moments when we may begin to question, though with any process, we know that feelings of uncertainty does not determine outcome, they just mean you’re human.


So, if we go back and remember a time when doubt crept in, we may also remember when we continued to move to get beyond where we were standing. Carefully, and maybe with the help of other trusted hands you moved beyond your edge. Maybe you moved because you had hope, determination, bravery, resilience, or maybe another purpose, but you moved despite discomfort. The human condition though bent for caution is also very much discernable with the ability to do hard things.


In entering the recovery process I encourage you not to minimize feelings of apprehension, but rather normalize and expect them with the work. But, may you also be mindful of the values and beliefs that can sustain your capacity to heal. When we can identify these, or even one, we can utilize them to keep moving in the moments of pause and contemplation. In this interaction we not only extend ourselves from what we thought we could do, but also enter the experience healing from our pain.


Things to think (or chat) about:

-Take a personal peek at how you perceive pain; is it bad, can I sit with it, when I feel it what do I do?

– Think of that last time you healed from an injury; were there stages, was there a process, did getting better involve moving toward the injury, how may that be related to emotional healing?

– What helped you keep moving when you last faced a challenge; what values and beliefs helped me keep going; what was the self-talk attached to my vales and beliefs, do I have more examples of this; are there other things that helped me?

-How did you feel when you moved beyond through feelings of hesitation; stronger, empowered, capable, braver, curious, hopeful etc. Remember to celebrate every small victory so even if you felt “a little relieved” or “safer than I was” it still counts!

-Moving is hard work. How are you engaging in daily self-care to make sure you’re providing yourself a recharge and don’t forget to be creative; exercise, taking a drive, watching the river, adequate sleep, art, being mindful of eating habits, giving yourself a compliment, reading, music, a 10 minute stretch session at work, eating with loved ones, swinging with your kiddos, taking your full lunch break at work, hugs, hikes, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage, saying “yes” to me, silence and meditation, sitting in sunshine, or being around a good friend….. I digress.


Next monday I will continue to discuss the subject of finding purpose in pain using creative modalities and build upon this weeks topic, we will chat then:)