Learning from the Pain of Love

Why is it that we humans learn from pain so much better than from love? Or better yet, why do we learn from the pain of love rather than love itself? Perhaps the pain initially pushes us into survival mode, then potentially, we begin to grow, to thrive, stimulating invention and creativity.


All was well. Or so I thought…


And then, one autumn day, I was given the gift of the perfect storm. A lover whose anguish turned to anger during conversation about our potential break up. He said to me, “You’re not allowed out.”


That simple statement sent me into an emotional spiral, down, down, and I landed in a whirlpool of intense emotions and pain. I scratched and clawed my way to freedom, but to no avail. My flailing only caused more anxiety, more panic, more fears of “no way out, I’m not safe, trapped”. I was overwhelmed, drowning in my own pain and suffering. Shaking and panicked,I managed to breathe and with help, calm myself.


When I became more centered, I shared my experience with others, and realized what had happened.


I was experiencing memories. Of a physically and verbally abusive childhood. Firmly suppressed in the dark reaches of a closeted unconscious where they thrived as a deep soul wound. Given the right circumstances, that wound, comprised of painful impressions, would awaken. An alert alarm would go off, signaling danger and I would react according to an old pattern of behavior. An adult acting out like a terrified adolescent in those stressful situations.



I didn’t know it was there, at least not consciously. It didn’t leave a gaping hole in my skin, or a scab, or any physical pain.


No, it was more insidious then that. It laid low in the cellar of my unconscious mind, activating whenever it was threatened. Whenever it felt unsafe, trapped, or terrorized.


Then it would rear its’ ugly head in defensive rebellion, an attempt to create safety. And every time it rose up, I would succumb to its bite.


I decided I needed to understand this wound better,this energy that had been propelling me through life, forcing me to exhibit certain behaviors when activated. I went there again, face to face, and realized it was a wound I’ve been carrying around for decades, since childhood. It was terrifying. I kept telling myself, wherever self was, to breathe. Deeply.


After the initial shock of introduction, I settled in and allowed the wound to show me its’ contents. The years of situations and experiences that created it. The terror, fear, pain, shame, were all there. After being with the wound for some time, I came to at least not fear it. I could be with it, in its’ presence and not run.


“How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded! Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures. It also requires the ability to be affected by the wounds of others… But even more important is the love that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.” (1-Scott Peck)


Why is it that we humans learn from pain so much better than from love? Or better yet, why do we learn from the pain of love rather than love itself? Perhaps the pain initially pushes us into survival mode, then potentially, we begin to grow, to thrive, stimulating invention and creativity.


“Pain is a pesky part of being human, I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing…” (2 – JoyBell)



Author Henry Miller muses about pain and to actually trust it, “The key word is trust.  Trust everything that happens in life, even those experiences that cause pain will serve you in the end. It’s easy to lose the inner vision, the greater truths, in the face of tragedy. There really is no such thing as suffering simply for the sake of suffering. Along with developing a basic trust in the rhyme and reason of life itself, I advise you to trust your intuition. It is a far better guide in the long run than your intellect.” (3 – Henry Miller)


Ayya Khema writes in the book titled Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, that:

“Suffering is our best teacher because it hangs onto us and keeps us in its grip until we have learnt that particular lesson. Only then does suffering let go. If we haven’t learnt our lesson, we can be quite sure that the same lessons going to come again, because life is nothing but an adult education class. If we don’t pass in any of the subjects, we just have to sit the examination again. Whatever less we have missed, we will get it again. That is why we find ourselves reacting to similar situations in similar ways many times.” (4 – Khema)


Besides Henry Miller, what about other great artists: musicians, painters, dancers, the list goes on. Weren’t most of those artists in some kind of emotional and/or psychological pain?  Weren’t the creation of great works of art emerging from some unknown suffering – some wounds?


Vincent Van Gough was a great artistic talent and at times, was in extreme emotional, mental, and physical fatigue and pain. Here he communicates his state of being to his brother Theo, “Dear Theo: I had a fit after waking but then fell into yet another terrible strange delusion in which my unfortunate paintings had now been assembled in some vast marble mausoleum.  Thousands of people swarmed and shoved and jostled each other before them. I want my pictures to touch people, but I never conceived they would cause so many people to touch each other! Can you imagine? I need to rest. I hear there’s a nice place at St. Re’my…  (5 – Van Gogh/ Kimmelman)


Rod MacIver, poet, artist has this to say about his view of the human condition:

“We build our own walls around ourselves, our own prisons, out of preconceptions we have about life and about other people. The walls are designed to protect us, but they limit us. I seem to have a deep need to prove that the rules most people live their lives by are unnecessary – that I don’t need to live my life by those rules. Illusion bumping against illusion.”



When the wound was activated, I spiraled into an illusion, and was bumping against illusions. I could not see clearly – trapped in a dark house of mirrors. Now, the light of awareness has touched this place in me. I am conscious of this wound inside me, and it’s become a teacher, rather than a friend.


Mr. MacIver continues, “The beauty of people is in their flaws as in their integrity and courage.  It is this – our humanness, the learning of big lessons over and over again – that gives our journey its sacredness.  And we are each on a sacred journey, the destination: Peace and Balance. Harmony between people depends upon the honoring of another’s journey – pain, learning, wisdom and fears.The world is what it is, and I may have no idea what is really going on. It is my choice what I build my life around. I want to celebrate rather than criticize or alienate.” (6 – MacIver)


On further introspection, perhaps it’s a combination of the pain of love, with the deeper, larger love of humanity and the unshakeable belief in the human condition.


I agree with Mr. MacIver. I choose to celebrate rather than alienate my pain. It most likely will take much patience, love, and time to unravel all the mysteries of my wound, and how it has shaped my behaviors and life. How it has forced me to run and hide from anger and rage, yet at the same time, to seek it out. Strange, isn’t it? We seek what we know. We will also attract into our life those people and situations who will help us to heal, and at times, force us to look at our wounds. This has happened to me. I can no longer run and hide. With the courage it took to face, process and heal this emotional wound,I have opened up to a whole new level of love, for myself and subsequently, others.


Henry Miller said once, “Next on my list is to learn what love is. Love is complete and utter surrender. That’s a big word, surrender. It doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. It’s when we surrender control, let go of our egos, that all the love in the world is there waiting for us. Love is not a game, it’s a state of being.” (3 – Henry Miller)


Surrender to love. That’s a dilemma for the ego because it wants love yet wants to stay in control. The potential result? Conflict and Pain, for to become deeply intimate with another, to experience the love we all crave, control must be released or at least, subdued. I see the spiritual journey as the gentle surrender of control, manipulation and fears to trust, acceptance and love. This is accomplished according to one’s level of comfort. To surrender one’s ego, let go of control and simply be. Sounds easy? Maybe, however again, according to our level of comfort around surrendering, it can be a convoluted trek.


Perhaps we are all tortured souls looking for a respite in the arms of love and acceptance.


I went down into my depths and sat with what I thought was an enemy,a torturer, who turned out to be an old friend and teacher…pain. Presently, I am discovering what is reality…and real.



What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day…”Does it happen all at once, or bit by bit?”


“it doesn’t happen all at once,”said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges,  or have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these don’t matter at all, because you are Real , you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” (7 – Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit)


By the time I am an old woman, I sincerely hope that my “hair will be loved off, my eyes dropped out (and useless) and loose in the joints and very shabby”. For then, I will have endured all that the pain of love has to offer and hopefully, will have become REAL.




© Brooke Becker, 2015




1. M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”, Touchstone Publishing, 1988

2. C. JoyBell C., Poet and Author, “All Things Dance Like Dragonflies”

3. Henry Miller, American author,from “Reflections”, edited by Twinka Thiebault

4. Ayya Khema, “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere”, Wisdom Publications, 1987

5.Vincent Van Gogh, from “Beauty and the Blockbuster,” by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times Art Review, 1998.

6. Roderick MacIver, artist and publisher, “The Heron Dance Book of Love and Gratitude”,Heron dance Press, 2005

7. Margery Williams, “The Velveteen Rabbit”, Ariel Books, Andrews and McMeel,  1922


Images: Glencoe, Scottish Highlands by Edel Monteiro









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