When I get injured and feel pain I often take time to reflect on what caused the pain. How did I get the injury? What’s my current state? Will I get better? How long will it take to heal? What can I do? What can I not do? What hurts and the list goes on.
I am just realizing now that pain is an effective trigger for self reflection. Pain causes me to investigate my past.
Removing the pain through pain killers or distraction prevents me from reflecting. When I do not reflect then I miss out on knowing what caused the pain and make the same mistake again.
Pain isn’t pleasant.
I think this applies to learning as well. When memorizing facts for an exam or learning a new math formula, there is discomfort. It feels like our brain tries to avoid that discomfort by either escaping, like distractions, or it goes through the discomfort fully until a solution is found. Once the brain is able to recall once, or solve that math problem, it feels the relief and the next time doing the same problem or trying to remember the fact becomes easier.
There’s another aspect of life that I think follows a similar pattern. It is the building of habits. We seem to have preferences for how we ought the world to be around us that differ from how they actually are. For example, “I should have known better”, “I should have slept earlier”, “the house should be clean”. For each of these preferences when we are confronted with reality we feel discomfort. Reality is not matching up to our preference. We are very good at recognizing the discomfort, just like we recognize the pain in an injury so our mind gives us the option of a quick escape. We ignore it, scroll Instagram and move on.
By sitting with the discomfort, and reflecting further than the initial thoughts we can learn about how to make reality align with our preferences, or make our preferences align with the limitations of reality.
Let’s sit with the first discomfort. “I should have known better”, could I? Because then if I could then lets begin the steps to be better prepared. Did I forget a date? Then I should use a calendar. There are actions that I can take to help me align reality to my preference and reduce future discomfort.
How about this one? “the house should be clean”. Well, does reality allow the house to be clean? Yes of course houses can be clean. Then what’s stopping it from being clean? The answer is my own choice to not clean the HOUSE. so, now that I know, I can now make the immediate decision to clean the house to prevent the future discomfort and align reality to my preference. As this discomfort continually appears I am training myself to take the path of discomfort and cleaning the house so that the future discomfort of having a messy house is reduced. Eventually the habit of cleaning will have formed and messiness discomfort will trigger me to clean instead of avoidance.
There are however pain and discomfort which I can feel that even when reflecting on don’t evaluate to very much gain. Some examples could be accidents, death, illness or other tragedy. No matter how many times I choose the path of reflection, the next time tragedy strikes the pain will be the nearly the same intensity.
There is however a reason to still choose to sit with the discomfort and reflect instead of running to distraction, and that is to mold the mind and build a habit of choosing reflection. Knowing full well that the discomfort will not decrease.
Because in doing so the mind will be resilient and make the choice of reflection when there are instances of pain that we can learn from.
Now that I’ve written my thoughts, I have an urge to share it. Maybe it’s to get approval of people or to see what other people think. There’s a little bit of me that knows I cannot adhere to this, so I’ll become a hypocrite but then who has the right to write anything about what one ought to do?
I appreciate pain and discomfort because it make me deal with it. When it does come, then I must have courage to choose to sit with it and reflect, avoid distraction.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/mat.7.13-14.NIV