The Gift No One Wants
By Tom Kneier, Licensed Professional Counselor
In April I joined a Softball League for Seniors. (Stop smiling and keep reading). At the first batting practice, I pulled my left oblique muscle and had to sit out the first few weeks while it healed. My first “at bat” after returning was an infield hit that I tried to beat out, causing partial hamstring tears in BOTH legs. Three weeks into my rehab, I underwent prostate surgery that had been scheduled two months prior. Why am I telling you my 2019 medical history? Because these combined three incidents “forced” me to change how I conducted my day to day life for eight weeks. And what was that “force”? PAIN.
In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey describes pain as “the gift no one wants”. Yancey credits Dr. Paul Brand with this revelation after visiting his leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana, where his research demonstrated that leprosy is primarily a defective pain system. The disease anesthetizes the pain cells in the hands, feet, nose, ears, and eyes to produce a numbness which essentially shuts down this God-given warning system in our bodies. Without the sensation of pain, sufferers unwittingly develop blisters, ulcers, and infections in their extremities that ultimately leads to loss of limbs. Conclusion: Pain is the only means to be alerted that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.
In my counseling practice, I have found this concept to be invaluable. Clients seek treatment because they are suffering emotionally and psychologically and want the pain to stop! I tell them something none of us wants to hear: you need to pay attention to the pain to get better. It’s a warning system that has an important message. If you don’t listen to it, you will inevitably harm yourself further (just like those with leprosy).
The most common experience of emotional pain accompanies unwanted or unexpected transitions. Unavoidable changes associated with divorce, death, job loss, financial crisis, disease, or tragedy. Too often we ignore the pain or try to deaden it with drugs, alcohol, or other addictions. Or we rage in anger about how unfair life is. We resort to blaming others or God. But we rarely listen to the pain and try to understand what’s causing it. Hint: it’s not just the event itself.
Once we locate the cause of our pain, we can start making the changes that are needed in order to heal. In the case of my oblique, my hamstrings, and my prostate procedure, the treatment was RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Are you experiencing the pain of depression, anxiety, chronic anger, insomnia, self-injurious behavior? I don’t have a catchy acronym for treatment. But if you seek professional help in finding the cause of your pain, it will “force” you to make changes that will put you on the road to recovery - thanks to the gift that no one wants.