To recoil is a natural reflex, but is it always the best response to painful stimuli?
Sometimes, with certain kinds of pain, maybe it’s best to just feel it, deeply, until it changes you.
On certain days, especially when it’s extra-chilly, sometimes the normal water temperature in the shower just doesn’t quite warm me up to the core. Even after getting in, I used to incrementally warm the water up until it was hot enough to achieve that effect; after all, if you just go from ‘hot enough to get in’ to much hotter right away, it feels scalding; it’s a shock; run! Gradually increasing the temperature is ideal; eventually you’re totally warm and you don’t even realize how you got there.
But today, as I sat in shower, done cleansing, but still chilly, I skipped the increments and just turned it up. Instead of hopping out or turning it down or even arching my body to avoid the now-scalding water as I usually would have done, I just sat there, in stillness, experiencing the shock, breathing deeply.
And it struck me in that moment that this is how life should be lived. (1) I’ve always known this is a truth; my capacity to simply throw myself into something because it felt right and I believed in it — and consequences schmonsequences, this is the right thing to do — is something that’s always made others question my sanity, and for good reason.
But now I realize, everyone else is crazy, crazy for avoiding the pain that comes with making yourself uncomfortable. My point is, I don’t think that “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is very useful advice. Sure, you might get burned, but assuming you don’t die, it’s quite the shortcut to growth.
(1) Yes, there are lots of cultural reminders that nothing good comes easily. “No pain no gain,” etc. And yet people still don’t behave as if they comprehend, including myself most of the time. So at the very least, consider this another reminder to myself. And yourself.