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What Happens When You Run Away From Pain

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I grew up with the notion that you can escape the pain. You could run away from it by moving, or cutting off your feelings, or by pretending you don't care. Unfortunately, I learned these tools from my parents who were well-intentioned, but did not have the tools to deal with painful situations. So, whenever pain or heartbreak showed up, I'd do what I was taught and I found easy but unhealthy ways to self-soothe.

One thing I would do is make the pain and hurt proof of my incorrectness, wrongness, or badness. So, when something came up that caused me great pain, it wasn't just the essence of life, incompatibility, or a set of circumstances that I could work through. Instead, I believed there was something innately wrong with me. Or that there was something in me that created these circumstances. If you know anything about labeling yourself or seeing yourself as bad, incorrect, not good, or not good enough. You know that it inspires a whole lot of actions that are never really good for you. You end up doing harmful things like looking for validation from others

When you believe in your heart that you are inherently incorrect, you make anyone a compass- Meaning you latch on to anyone who will guide you back to being good again. Or you look for someone who can help guide you back to yourself and you latch onto these people because they give you worth or an identity when you have none.

Sometimes the compass is your parents and you allow them to be your compass and guide you by dictating your life and telling you who you are because you are afraid you can't do it or you will screw it up. Sometimes your parents are the ones that made you aware of your incorrectness. So, you turn away from them. Sometimes you find your compass in your friends. Your friends are more likely to help you figure out who you are and help you believe that you are more than just bad or not good enough. Sometimes they don't guide you to yourself and only blur your vision. Sometimes your partners miss when it comes to guiding you back to you. Often, they remind you that you are incorrect as you are and sometimes they go so far as to give you even more reasons why you are incorrect. When you are told you are incorrect by those closest to you, and when you have not cultivated the skill to validate and be yourself, you do a very natural thing. You hide for fear of being hurt. Or you split yourself in two and seek validation from others.

When you hide, you disconnect from society slowly and enjoy the company of yourself. You may not show it, but you are sad about not being seen. Some folks internalize it as a social problem and not your problem. Some folks internalize it as their problem and cut themselves out from the world.

On the other hand, when you split yourself in two, you hide your true self and create a chameleon-like identity as your representative. The chameleon or representative is a performer. She is agreeable with everyone. She is what everyone needs. She changes herself for everyone. They need a listening ear she can be that. Her prospects mention they want a stay-at-home wife she shows him by cooking. Her parents tell her she should be doing better, she applies to law school despite not wanting to be a lawyer. She listens acutely to others so that she can be what they need.

The problem with both strategies, i.e. being alone and splitting yourself in two, is that ultimately you still feel bad and you never allow yourself the freedom to be you- which is outrageous because you have permission to be you at any time, and yet you are denying it.

The person who escapes society to hide in their world feels alone because no one is there. The person who splits themselves in two feels bad because despite having people around, no one knows the real you and you are doing extremely tiring work to make sure that they don't.

You are suffering, but to you, this form of suffering (being alone and splitting yourself in two) is more bearable than being you, being ok with that person, and enjoying the moment with a person who likes you.

As someone who has fallen into these choices, those band-aids for pain are not worth it. The men you date, who do not see you, and still, you date them is not worth it. The friends you have who you change to keep around are not worth it. The identity you construct every time you meet a new person is not worth it. Pulling away from the world is not worth it. The work you have to do to go back to being yourself after being someone else for years is not worth it. Responding to pain like this costs way too much. Especially, when being you is free and freeing.


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