Yesterday, I attended a seminar on pain and suffering. Its topic was Total Pain. Total pain includes physical, emotional/mental, social, and spiritual. Within these four areas, there is “fixable” pain such as the mending of broken bones or the relieving of physical pain, and there is “unfixable” pain such as comes with the grief that follows loss.
This particular seminar was designed with caregivers in mind, so most of the material presented was to help caregivers realize ways to help their patients cope with “unfixable” pain. As a spiritual director, this is my “supposed” field of expertise. I spent three years learning how not to fix people. Yet, there is some small part of me that wants to be able to do that very thing, to solve people’s problems and make them “better.”
This presupposes that I know what a person needs to be “fixed” and that I know what “better” is for them. As I have reflected on this “fixing” habit, I have to admit that I don’t want to acknowledge that I have “unfixable” pain in my own life. If I can focus on fixing another’s pain then I can avoid my own. I can ignore it. I am trying to diminish my own pain by solving another’s. It is a delusional practice.
I was reminded in this seminar that the healing of “unfixable” pain requires one to be present to it, completely and fully. Moving in to it. This means that I must move in to my own pain and be present to it, and the other must do the same. As a spiritual director, I invite my directees into their pain and suffering, to experience it, and be present to it. I can do this because of my own pain and suffering. We are both wounded and healing. We are both wounded healers.