Everyone experiences pain. We often do not get to choose why and when we experience this pain, but we can choose how we react to it.

There are three choices for us in our reactions:

Internalize it

We can inflect this pain inwards and burden ourselves with it. We can refuse to acknowledge that we are in pain, we can weld a brave, stoic mask on and refuse to let it slip. But we know that this is not an effective way to cope. We can lie to others that we are in pain. We can even lie to ourselves. But the pain will still exist. When we internalize pain, we are not taking steps to lessen it and we are not opening ourselves to possible solutions that we may not have seen before. We push down what still exists, and this can cause or compound feelings of anxiety, depression, withdrawal and loneliness.

Externalize it

We can also allow our pain to manifest into anger and send that anger outwards to others. Those we harm may have nothing to do with the cause of our pain, or they may have a great deal to do with it. Either way, the pain controls us and what we do; it forces us to behave in ways we may not normally have if not in pain. We are overcome with the pain, consumed and controlled by it. We can damage or lose relationships, and we can damage or lose ourselves. We only have so much of an attention span and only so much energy, which are often taken up by problems, events and emotions. When strong emotions threaten to overthrow our balance, we can lose our rational centre, which is pivotal in success. We lose ourselves in this pain, we lose the meaning of our pain and the value of our struggle in our sole appreciation of pain.


We can also allow this pain to become a catalyst. We can harness the emotions we feel upon experiencing it in order to create change. We can imagine our pain and think of ways to lessen it. We can empathize and strive to lessen the same experience for others. We can refuse to allow the pain to control us. We can refuse to allow such a pain to continue, or to happen again.

To feel pain is to struggle, and to overcome struggle is to grow. To grow is to transform these strong emotions into goals. With pursuing goals comes a sense of purpose, and subsequently a direction. With direction comes development, which is achieved in the intellectual, moral and even physical realms.  

We can imagine this as a sword. The pain, struggle, and growth is the hilt – the pain allows us to handle the pain and subsequent burdens once we develop goals. We can wield it, control it, direct it, harness it and no longer allow it to wield us.

The next time you are in pain, imagine holding that pain in your hands. Imagine wielding it. Imagine slicing through those the things that are holding it back. These obstacles or things that cause your pain are not things to cower from, they are things to destroy. The physical, mental and moral development you feel as a result are the sharpness of the blade, and that blade will only become sharper.

The next time you are in pain, remember, you are not hindered – you are armed, in a way that will only become stronger.

The key behind transforming pain to will is widen your view. It is to push, and struggle and suffer. It is not easy, in fact it is incredibly hard. But extending your view from immediate pain to where that pain may go, to the exciting possibilities of what that pain may inspire and become, it is always going to be more beneficial than retaining tunnel vision, and internalizing or externalizing it. We must sharpen our will, like a sword, and use it to slice through obstacles, both internal and external.

But this does not work unless the willpower comes from a source of reason, and good will. If you are acting from a position of self appreciation, true positivity, and the holistic desire to do and be good – whatever that may mean to you – logic will not allow you to stray. Divulging anger, guilt and even happiness, which can often mislead us, and can be akin to pain in its ability to give us tunnel vision and force us away from what will be ultimately better for us.

Look for goodwill and reason instead of immediate relief in happiness or sadness. I challenge you to catalyze. I challenge you to wield your sword.

By N.C. 

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.