There is a special skill that many athletes, have. Many soldier,and entrepreneurs have it as well. It is the thing that makes them able to face insurmountable obstacles and overcome the tragedy of grave failure, pick them selves up and try again. This is the same skill that the ultra-marathon runner employs in mile 62 of an endurance race, it is the same skill the sniper uses when he is stung in the left eye by a bee while using his right eye to stay focused on his target. It is not a skill that is physical it is mental. Compartmentalization of pain is one of the oldest and most effective pain management assets a person can use. It allows you to block out the immediate pain and push toward the greater goal. But this great skill does not work on trauma. Not at all.
If someone punches you in the face your adrenaline will surge and its possible to keep fighting while your eye closes up. Some people can’t feel anything until after a fight is over because of this. But if your cornea is damaged in the fight there is no amount of pain tolerance that will bring your vision back. Now why am I talking about eye balls? Because that is the unequivocal soft spot on every human being. And eye tissue doesn’t repair itself the way other tissues do. So its important to note that sometimes even when a fighter is telling the referee he can still handle the pain. The ref has the authority to call the bout so that the fighter doesn’t do irreversible harm.
Hurt is something that can easily be ignored, injury impairs function for a longer term and can lead to permanent trauma. This is the thing all the super athletes, entrepreneurs, soldiers, and fighters sometimes have trouble realizing. As passionate people sometimes we can not see past our noses, and when it comes to managing pain we can train ourselves to keep our eye on the prize but in addition to the compartmentalization skill we also need the emergency release valve. Sometimes we just need to fucking cry.
Amidst the fire fight, you might loose a comrade, and that is not the time to get choked up and impair your judgement and put the others of you that are still alive at risk. Once you get back to safety though that loss needs to be processed. It needs it own time to resonate fully within you psychological, and emotionally. If you are in shock, you are not healing. If you are suppressing emotions you are not healing. And you will never heal until you experience those thoughts and feeling fully.
We all know that feelings can be bottled up for only so long and the longer we keep them contained to more explosive they can be come once they force their way out. It is important that we passionate artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs allow ourselves this time and even add it into our training and preparations. It is as essential as rest (which we often fail to do as well). If you are not taking the time to grief, in whatever way you need to you are not moving past the event that is causing you pain. They say the first step in drug abuse recovery is admitting you have a problem. The first step in grieving is acceptance.
Pain works the same way in our bodies. It is not weakness, it is a signal. Alarms are loud and jarring for a reason and to ignore them is to ignore their cause. For me, the secret weapon is crying, balling my eyes out like a little baby. I may do it in private, alone, in the dark but I do it. Sometimes it may be while I am running, or while I am working out. It just needs to be released.
And I don’t mean hitting a punching bag in anger, I mean experiencing real crippling sadness. The work is to find a place where you can be paralyzed for a second, give your self a chance to fall apart so that you have any chance of putting yourself back together in a healthy way.
If your foundation is rocked by an event you might have to tear out a part of the building to repair it but there is no short cut to healing. Being the achievers we are we may want to push through the pain, and that is absolutely necessary. But it is just as imperative that we crumble if we have to.
Tear ducts should be rinsed from time to time and the only way to do that is to use them. If you don’t have all the time in the world or are worried about not being able to come back from the feelings get around people that you trust or even talk to a therapist but you can’t be afraid to explore all of you emotions and pain and sadness are just as important as courage and compartmentalization.
They say it takes a big man to cry, but in many ways it only takes a smart one. If you don’t “let it out” it will come out at a time when you are not expecting it. Let your tears become a tool, your pain become an informant, and your emotions augment your instinct. You become a better person for it. Not only capable of suppressing your pain in urgent moments, but opening it up to aid in recovery.
Louis Zamperini, who the film Unbroken is based on was not a great man because he felt no pain, but because he was able to survive it. He didn’t bottle it up like a machine, he expressed it like a human being. It is there that the beauty of stoicism is revealed. It is not a skill like any other that has a time and place of usefulness. It is a tool and in response to dire moment your secret weapon is a good cry.