Top Skills Thursday: Recognize what hurts

So often when something troubles us, we shove it aside and keep pushing forward. A broken heart, dissatisfaction with a job, stress from any source, anger, fear, all those emotions just get pushed into a corner together. We tell ourselves we’ll deal with it later and focus on things we feel have to be done.

Then we never go back.

I’ve been called out on this behavior recently. The most impactful moment came as I was reading a book. I realized that in not stopping to recognize the wounds within myself, I was making everything worse and delaying my own recovery from the trauma of a pandemic, having long-covid, and all the fallout of those things combined.

This was the particular passage that stood out to me:

Recognizing and identifying our suffering is like the work of a doctor diagnosing an illness. He or she says, “If I press here, does it hurt?” and we say, “Yes, this is my suffering. This has come to be.” The wounds in our heart become the object of our meditation. We show them to our doctor, and we show them to the Buddha, which means we show them to ourselves. Our suffering is us, and we need to treat it with kindness and nonviolence. We need to embrace our fear, hatred, anguish, and anger. “My dear suffering, I know you are there. I am here for you, and I will take care of you.” We stop running from our pain. With all our courage and tenderness, we recognize, acknowledge, and identify it.

Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (p. 29). Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize the insight this offers. (I’m not one, but the book was suggested as a possible aid in my process of sorting out my mind and emotions.)

How many times have we recognized that something hurts inside, and then been angry with ourselves for hurting? How often do we tear ourselves down for daring to be imperfect or needing space to heal?

Instead, try recognizing the things that hurt. Be gentle with them. Accept that they hurt. They don’t define you.

If we were hit and developed a large bruise, we wouldn’t be angry with our body for showing an injury. We’d put ice on it, keep an eye on it to ensure it was healing, and if it were bad enough we’d go for an x-ray to make sure the bone wasn’t broken.

We must treat the injuries within our minds and hearts the same way.



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