630.479.4676

Pain, Pleasure, and Peace: How to Find Balance

This sounds like a conflicting topic however the spirit of what you will read is intended make your life more simple and balanced.

The content of this post came to me while I was in the middle of a two hour workout this morning, and I was possessed to stop short of the third hour to begin writing (the arm balances and headstands will have to wait!)

I connected with the idea of pain knowing that I would be a little sore tomorrow but I really wanted to work on some goals. I thought about all of the people I know who are working on their goals, whether they are related to work, weight loss, fitness, anxiety, or other personal or professional struggles. I accepted the idea of pain and thought, “Pain is part of the development of any goal, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, professional, or other.” Change brings about disruption, reorganization, and a return to balance. Pain will dissipate, pleasure can be sensed, and a balance will be created.

However, the expectations that we build around the perception of the change can hinder our ability to actually become resilient and peaceful. This is where people get stuck, and experience anxiety.

Expectations

So many times we enter a situation or challenge anticipating either the best or the worst to happen. This is a normal aspect of the human condition since the nervous system and its cascade of thoughts, physical reactions, and emotions are arranged to react to danger, chaos, and enemies, and also to seek out safety, order, control, and love.

What we must remember is that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are meant to BALANCE each other out, not CANCEL each other out. 

By the same token, we often have expectations about a situation where we think, “This is going to be terrible and painful” or “this is going to be perfect and wonderful” because we are trapped in the on/off switch of polarized, black or white, all or nothing, pain or pleasure, good or bad thinking. 

We develop expectations that validate whatever has been our most familiar experience (even in terms of how we are accustomed to thinking and perceiving a situation). 

Negative thoughts, although unproductive, are familiar.

Familiar equals predictable which means control. 

However, the cycle of threat/alert/react keeps you trapped inside the loop and you can’t get a chance to test the reality of the situation. 

Breaking Out of the Cycle

Acceptance means that we stop struggling with the idea that we must get rid of pain in order to have pleasure, or that we cannot experience pleasure because there is pain. Sometimes we think that we will never experience anything “good” because there has only been an experience of “bad”.

The body already knows that there will always be both pain and pleasure. The body has a middle ground, a resting point, where there is equilibrium and balance between pain and pleasure. 

The body is already in acceptance. The body knows peace.

To allow the mind to find acceptance means to expect that there will be struggles and discomfort in life, along with happy times, and exhilarating times.

Peace is in the middle to balance it all out.

To find balance in the midst of life’s challenges is to observe the landscape of your thoughts, emotions, reactions, and perceptions and discover that there is room for all of the pain, pleasure, and peace in each situation.

Finding the Middle

Easier said than done, finding the middle takes diligent practice.

At first, the initial pattern of reaction to a perceived threat will elicit stress responses. 

The idea of calming down will be rejected at first because this is perceived as unsafe, such as lowering your guard in the middle of a fist fight. 

Calming down seems too passive and unrealistic. You’re not ready to let go of the fight and just give up and let go because that does not seem to solve anything. 

Also, if you have been stressed and anxious for a long time, feeling calm and peaceful does not even seem attainable. 

Perfection is viewed as a threat because it is unattainable because it does not exist.

Therefore, what is left is failure, pain, and heartache. This has been experienced and validated, and seems real. 

The middle, peaceful place is the balance between the ideas of perfection and failure. 

…the IDEAS of perfection and failure…

When you can realize that thoughts are just that, ideas…thoughts…mental constructs….then they can be transformed at your will to reflect the middle ground of reality which acknowledges and balances out perfection and failure.

ACCEPT that both ideas of perfection and failure exist, just as pain and pleasure exist.

ACCEPT that there is also a safe resting point right in the middle that mediates those two polarities. 

When you let yourself create resilient thoughts that accept both perfection and failure, fear and courage, pleasure and pain, then you become more powerful and see many solutions to solving the problems of life’s challenges.

Peace does not magically eliminate pain or pleasure but it gives us a place to find balance between the two experiences in order to cope with the challenges of life.

The next time that you need to find the middle, begin by taking these steps:

1) Make a list of your fear-based thoughts, emotions, and imagined outcomes. What needs are being met?

2) Make a list of your perfection-based thoughts, emotions, and imagined outcomes.

3) Ask yourself to identify more balanced thoughts, emotions, and outcomes that are available to meet your instinctive needs of health and wellness.

4) Notice if you are making a fear-based decision instead of listening to what you know is instinctively well for your mind and body to meet your needs authentically.

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

When you can come to a place of balance, you are better able to listen to and follow your heart’s desire. We often hold back on pursuing what we want out of fear. Your instincts tell you what you need to be healthy and well.

Courage comes from being able to overcome fear and act on what you know in your gut you need to do.

Your mind and body will have a louder voice that you can follow more easily when you can spend some time in the middle, in peace. 

by Diana Zilly, MS, MA, LCPC, NBCFCH. Diana is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Fellow in Clinical Hypnotherapy, and former Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Joliet Junior College.