What Do I Mean by Pain?

Our life begins in pain and often ends in it. Pain is a faithful companion. It takes hold of our bodies, sometimes warning us, sometimes pinching us, sometimes vague and speaking softly, sometimes overwhelming us.

Who does not know the pain of the soul, the quiet melancholy in which it can sweetly hide, the sadness of parting moods that make us wave goodbye to the past on the threshold between future and past, or the disappointment and resignation that make life taste so bitter? But that not being enough, the encounter with guilt and failure, the shattering voice of conscience, and the stirring insight into inevitable self-transformation speak out in the language of the pain of realisation. Pain writes the dramas and tragedies of every human biography.

The peculiar thing about pain is that it binds us: physically to the present, mentally to the past, spiritually to eternity. Pain brings heightened but restricted consciousness. It is a personal, completely individual moment of perception and suffering, therefore self-experience, and self-knowledge of the highest degree. We are faced with the paradox that in pain – and only in pain – lies the chance to overcome it. Hölderlin gives us farsighted courage: «One climbs higher, treading on one’s suffering.» He who knows suffering becomes compassionate towards others. To use the most beautiful words of Adalbert Stifter: «Pain is a holy angel, and through it, humans have become greater than through all the joys of the world.»

From: Iris Paxino, Living with Pain, in: Living with Life – Twelve Insights for Personal Development. Compilation by Wolfgang Held.

Cover photo: Brina Blum/Unsplash

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