Is Pain an Unavoidable Part of Personal Growth?

Growth is a curious thing. Often times it hurts like hell and imposes great uncertainty upon us, and it isn’t until we’re able to assimilate some different information, that we can reflect back to the past season, year, or ten years and seen we’ve grown. Many times it’s through these trials and tribulations that we start to see ourselves as much more capable than we’d previously understood ourselves to be. While growth is often times a consequence of pain, I’ve discovered pain does not always need to accompany growth.

While I certainly have plenty of day-to-day material that allows me the opportunity to grow, in recent years, I’ve begun taking one trip a year I know will force me out of my comfort zone. I’ve found putting myself in unfamiliar places and circumstances are incubators for growth, and while I can never foresee what I’m gonna get, it’s still a sure thing.

Last summer, after spending a month in Africa, I was gifted with gratitude. I thought I knew gratitude before, but it wasn’t until I witnessed the unexpected joy of the African people in spite of the debilitating conditions they endure every day, that I could truly grasp how fortunate my life – with all of its apparent challenges – is. Walking through piles of waste and sewage that lined the streets, I said to my husband, “I will never complain again.”

Of course old habits die hard, and it’s a constant practice, but since that moment, I’m certain, I have little to complain about in the whole scheme of things.

The previous year I journeyed by boat 18 hours down the Amazon River into the jungle, and up to the impressive peaks of Machu Picchu. Trekking through the dense jungle yielded a deep humility, spearing fish from the river for dinner made me feel capable, and participating in ancient ceremonies with descendants of the Matses tribe expanded my scope of reality far beyond what I could’ve imagined existence to be.

This year I chose Paris.

Paris?

Champs-Elysées strolling, Bordeaux sipping, macaroon eating, Paris?

Yep. That Paris.

Although I must admit, I was hit with so many resistances as I went to book the ticket, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I had to shake the puritan programming that creating an artistic sabbatical in Paris was indulgent and expensive and I should be doing something more…productive. 

These, my friends, are controls. We often think of controls as laws and rules that others impose upon us, but we also are impacted the most by controls that exist in our minds. The “shoulds” and “have to’s” that dictate our lives impede our ability to be free in our hearts and experience joy.

I know from past history that when I’ve faced my resistances head on, I’ve been gifted with greater insight into my life, and untethered myself from the invisible hands that control me. So often we think once we reach perfection in our lives, then we’ll be happy. The truth is in order to be happy we just have to give ourselves a little permission.

What is permission anyway?

Permission is the ability to give to ourselves fully for no other reason that it nurtures the spirit. Permission is the way we get to grow without the pain.

It’s because of permission that I am writing you this very insight from the sunbaked patio of my Parisian apt. The fact that I made it here at all speaks to the fact that I was able to move through my self-inflicted controls. While the ways in which I will evolve from my time spent Paris still need time to unfold, I know I’ll return with a greater vision of self. If posts are light for the next few weeks, know that I am challenging myself to live and be in the present moment, and giving myself permission to fully indulge in all that Paris has to offer.

What has your experience been with personal growth?

 

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