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    Something to think About: Reframing my hurts

a man in a counselling session looking sad and depressed with concerned people sitting around him
Dr. Amit Sood
says, "Let your moments of pain remind you to practice deeper gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness."

Dear friend,

Acute back pain, particularly the kind where one wrong twist can send you into severe pain, changes every aspect of life, at least for a few days. Sitting, lying, walking, eating, sleeping—during every single activity, you protect yourself from the pain.

Emotional pains are the same. An emotional pain, strong enough to draw your attention for the better part of the day, becomes the defining thought for the day. Further, while most acute backaches are short-term visitors, emotional pains can find a home in our brains for a lifetime because of our phenomenal memory of negative events and ability to imagine and catastrophize.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A multitude of salves, made of timeless values, can heal the emotional pain. The balm of gratitude helps you remember that the hurt could have been much worse. My shoulder pain could have been not just the muscle sprain but metastatic cancer. I should be grateful that it isn’t metastatic cancer and focus on that reality rather than the pain itself.

The emollient of compassion helps me remember millions who have pain worse than mine, no one to empathize, no rest from work despite the pain, and suboptimal treatments. When I focus on compassion for them, I help palliate my own pain.

I should also recognize that of the 360 joints and 650 muscles, one or two will at times get sore in this almost fifty-year-old frame. I can either fight this reality or just accept it. With acceptance a light shines, which lets me find meaning in my pain. Maybe my pain is signaling that I should become more disciplined about keeping myself fit; maybe it is preventing something worse that I don’t even know about. With gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and meaning, I rewrite the scripts. Eventually I will have to arrive at a place where I erase the hurts—by forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the curative surgery that completely removes the hurts from life. Forgiveness clears the mind of negativity so love can find a place in it. The mind can’t purify itself of hurtful emotions until it learns to forgive. Until I and others around me are perfect, I will keep getting hurt. I should accept this reality. Educated and empowered by this acceptance, I should learn to forgive, if I wish to remain light, free, and fully available to experience the magic of life.

May your hurts spur you to deepen your anchor in timeless values; may a deeper anchor in timeless values decrease your hurts.

Take care.

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.