Pain. We spend our lives consciously and subconsciously trying to avoid pain. As a comedian, why do I want to acknowledge pain? Humor is pain. It’s presenting a struggle or hurt you can relate to in a unique way. In the same regard, I’ve come to believe you cannot experience the true extent of joy without experiencing suffering first.
Science has shown a key component to a happy life is gratitude. Happiness does not come from perfection. A perfect world, a perfect relationship, a perfect soul mate, a perfect dollar amount in your bank account. Happiness comes from seeing the good in the small. Nothing makes you truly grateful for the victories in your life more than struggling through hardships first. Having your view of the world shattered and redefined by loss, hardship and ultimately – pain – helps you prioritize and appreciate what truly matters.
Here’s the problem with pain– it hurts. Pain sucks. That’s why we spend a majority of our days from the time we were kids trying to avoid or suppress it. Think of every bad coping mechanism you have. It’s generally your response to avoid feeling pain.
As a culture, we’ve bought into the lie that if we are hurting in some way – in any way – there must be something wrong with us. Social media, advertising, “Prosperity Gospel”, the “Law of Attraction”, have furthered this phenomenon. If there is anything wrong in our lives it must be our own doing. If we were thinner, stronger, richer, smarter, worked harder – than our life wouldn’t hurt. Yet, deep down we all do.
What would your life look like, our culture look like, if we all learned to embrace pain as a natural part of living? Rather than focusing on eradicating our pain, we chose to embrace it as a season that will come and go? What if we chose to recognize a painful season or struggle as a tool that will ultimately teach us gratitude? A tool that will simplify our lives by teaching us what matters. A tool that makes us intellectually and emotionally deeper, more empathetic, more focused, and makes us stress less because we recognize the futility of freaking out over the little things. All the things science has shown makes us happier.
The above thought is not a validation of victim-hood. I don’t believe in lying down and wallowing in pain. (Though, small amounts of “wallow” for a short time can be healthy. Just a swallow of wallow. No drowning or lounging around on a floaty of wallowhood allowed.) Instead, I’m condoning acknowledging pain for what it is:
-Pain hurts. It sucks. It’s uncomfortable.
-Pain is a season. It’s not forever.
-Pain is something that will force you to choose between becoming bitter or becoming better.
-Pain is a tool that can ultimately allow you to live a deeper and more meaningful life. THIS has the power to bring you true happiness.
My life is far from pain-free, both from the physical sense as well as emotional/mental. Yet, I can say I’m generally the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’ve learned pain does not define my self-worth, my identity, or how capable I am. Pain does not mean something is wrong with me. Pain does not stop me.
Rather than allowing pain to control or dictate my direction-or lack of- in my life, I’ve moved pain to it’s rightful place. I’ve moved pain to the side as a companion who comes and goes. A teacher that walks along side me at times, revealing to me what truly matters in this short life. I allow it to help me redefine my priorities, to reveal the good in the small, and to recognize the joy and pain in others. Pain has truly been the most powerful key to unlocking my genuine happiness.
Stacy Pederson is a Colorado based Humorist and Funny Motivational Speaker who is incessantly insecure with a chronic Thai Food / Netflix binge habit.