My heart was beating faster but not through excitement. The cause? The remark “A number two scalpel please nurse”. Normally dentists use gentler phrases such as “this may cause some discomfort” (carefully avoiding words like ‘pain’). But not this time. Trapped in the dentist’s chair halfway through a difficult extraction the only real option was to accept the inevitable, trust the dentist, and strive hard to adopt the Buddhist philosophy of ‘acceptance’.
Isn’t this also a metaphor for our mental and emotional life? Painful though it can be the only true path to healing is to confront what is causing us pain and, with support, work through it. It’s a kind of exorcism, that we need to get out whatever is toxic in our life because only then can our life be transformed into a better and healthier one. Avoidance of painful stuff (attractive though it can often seem) not only doesn’t work but tends to make things worse because by avoiding it we are providing evidence to ourselves that the pain is too much to confront.
Telling ourselves that ‘things will get better by themselves’ is a delusion. They won’t. With avoidance nothing is really fixed because nothing is healed. As someone said to me once, it’s the difference between surviving and living. Surviving means trying to cope with whatever is unresolved while living offers freedom to move forward without that burden.
The most rewarding aspect of the work I do, and have done for over three decades as a counsellor and psychotherapist, is to help people to think differently and to do differently. But there’s no avoiding going through some pain first. With support though it’s manageable and relatively short-lived, and can open up a whole new way of looking at the world and, more importantly, a new way of looking at ourselves.
And, yes, facing up to my dental experience was totally successful. A lingering soreness for a few days, but healing soon started, and now freedom from pain. As with our physical life so with our inner life. The choice is ours.
Feel free to leave any comments below. And do check out my e-book I Just Want To Be Happy. Full of practical exercises and bite-sized easy to digest chapters it takes you on a personal journey of self discovery and change. Paperback version available on Amazon.