You’ve very likely heard the saying that there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain; but the reality is (in my humble opinion) there’s no line at all!
Pleasure and pain are not separated by any lines, or any other barriers for that matter.
Pleasure and pain live in the same realm; they’re on the same side of the fence; they’re intimately and integrally related and can even be seen as one and the same thing!
What does this mean and why is it important?
It means that for many people, happiness and success need to be redefined. Too many people conceptualise happiness as something that’s all smiles and laughter; too many, similarly, think of success just as a series of wins and triumphs.
But from personal and professional experience, I know this not to be true. I know very well that unhappiness is a part of my life. Having experienced depression on and off for several decades now, and having tried a range of treatments with the hope of “fixing” or even curing it, I’ve come to realise that it just is; it won’t ever go away; and that even if I can manage it by diligently practising healthy behaviours (such as exercise and meditation etc) which I do, it will always be a part of who I am. And that need not be a bad thing.
In my professional experience as a psychologist, I’ve also witnessed first-hand the incredible phenomenon of “post traumatic growth”. This occurs when someone’s experienced a traumatic situation but, at some point in the future, can look back and realise that in some way or other the negative life event contributed to them becoming stronger or wiser or more mature or better in some way. They grew.
Along the same lines I’ve just finished a fascinating project with a very successful and innovative engineering company. Despite being probably the most successful business in their domain, the staff I spoke to repeatedly referred to the way they’re encouraged to embrace failure. In fact, part of their culture is failing their way to success. It’s not possible, they believe, to create something that’s truly new and useful and successful without first having tried and failed multiple (often hundreds if not thousands) of times first.
Now although this might sound in some ways depressing, accepting the reality of depression and failure, it is, rather, somewhat liberating and exciting to me. Why? Because it means that the realities of falling over and feeling down, of stuffing up and experiencing any one of the many negative emotions, are not just part of life but part of our best lives. It means that every yang has a yin; all darkness can and will be met with light; those dark storm clouds will pass to reveal a stunningly beautiful rainbow.
So next time your heart is aching or you’re about to explode with anger or frustration, try to remind yourself that these emotions are not, in and of themselves, bad or inherently painful. They may well hurt; but the discomfort you feel in the now is more than likely just setting the scene for something more positive to come soon.