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Suffering as a motivator?

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July 6, 2017

I find it intriguing that our memories of suffering are much greater than the actual physical or emotional pain that was inflicted. Our thoughts and re-hashing of painful circumstances that continue on in our minds long after the actual situation has concluded builds up so much power it is often daunting for clients to even imagine their pain could be any less than what they genuinely believe it to be.

I’ll give you an example. My aunt Tina (name changed for her privacy) had spent the greater part of her adulthood with knee pain. In her 30s, she had full knee replacement surgery and her memories of the pain from recovering from that surgery weighed heavy on her mind. So much so that in her 50s, when the replacements had worn to the point of causing her such excruciating pain that she couldn’t walk more than 10-15 steps without needing to sit down, she still preferred that pain to another surgery.

Although she’d seen many specialists over a period of 10 years, who all suggested she do another knee replacement, she refused to have the surgery. Eventually one doctor told her:

“When your current pain exceeds the memory of your previous recovery pain, you’ll be back to schedule this surgery.”

This obviously wasn’t the first time he’d seen this with his patients.

Sure enough, her pain and compounded circumstances got so bad that she finally agreed to one of two knee replacements and told herself she’d see how one goes before scheduling the other.

Once she felt the post-surgery pain, she told me: “This pain is far less than the pain I’ve lived with for the past 10 years. I should have done this sooner.” ¬†And she immediately scheduled her second knee for surgery as soon as the doctors would allow it.

Within a few months, she was happier and had more energy and vibrancy than we’d seen in over a decade.

The moral of the story is: Don’t let your past haunt your present and future. There is a famous adage (anonymous): “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” If you relive painful past experiences in your mind, let coaching help you find peace.