Working through pain or pushing past pain?

5 September 2022

“Give me your ashes.” A poignant statement that implies there was pain and loss. There’s a go-getting tendency in culture to not look back, but to look ahead, push past the pain, and just do it. Get it done and win. Anything else, you’re a loser because you didn’t win. But what does it mean to win? At what cost? The approach to just look ahead works, and exacts a heavy toll with it.


We use a lot of inner resources to stuff our past pains and failures in old closets, under the bed, in dark corners, in a dungeon, and to just forget about them. We push past the pain and keep it back by cutting ourselves, eating, gaming, watching TV, having sex, exercise, gambling, dominating, controlling, cleaning, arranging… the options are endless. The consequence could be bodily harm, social shame, debts, loss of a joy for life, deadened emotions, estrangement, loneliness — more pain. A loss of meaningful connection.


The harder way, that can feel impossible and counterintuitive, is to work through the pain, to witness it, unburden it, heal it. It does not mean rehashing the pain endlessly and going nowhere. It is often a slower or gradual process because the inner system knows its pace. Yet, when our vulnerable parts heal, all the parts around it, our inner family, transform into their natural valuable states and become more at ease. The energy they used previously to contain pain is now freed up for more of life in a connected way, inside out.

#internalfamilysystemstherapy #ifstherapy #partswork #selfcompassion