Tag Archive: pain

What could you do if you weren’t afraid?

If you weren’t afraid of facing a possible hostile audience, of missing out, of falling on your face … if you weren’t afraid of failing at something big for you, what would that change for you – or even open up for you? Marie Forleo brought this up on her weekly blog, challenging her audience to look at what they are specifically afraid of and what they could do if that fear didn’t exist.

Fear can be our greatest ally. Fear is painful – I mean actually painful.  Not like touching a hot stove, but almost like that! It can paralyze us.  And the more afraid we are, the worse it is.  Pain tells us that we need to change something we’re doing. Without feeling pain, we’d simply keep doing what we were doing.  Diabetics know this – after a time they lose the ability to feel pain in their extremities, and can get a serious infection, oblivious to it until it’s too late to save that toe or other body part.

Fear is like pain that way – it alerts us to something we’re doing that’s not good for us, and that we need to do something about.  It might be something we need to fear, but most often it’s something we’re afraid of for emotional reasons – like being afraid to fail.  This kind of fear tells us something like: I might fail at this and all will be lost!
If this happens to you, try this next time:

  • Imagine that your worst fear comes true, and you really do fail.  Then ask yourself if it really is the end of everything, or if it’s simply a setback.  Notice how you feel when you imagine this.  For me, I have this weight falling from my heart into my stomach; I can’t talk; I feel small and hopeless.
  • Now, imagine that you do it anyway, knowing that you have a lot of people rooting for you, knowing that you have what you need to do well.  Really imagine that, and feel it fully.  For me, I feel expansive, warm, excited and interested, wanting to get going – enjoying the moment and the connection.
  • In reality, what will happen will happen! But it’s more likely to be a positive experience – even if you fail – gong into it feeling expansive and excited than small and hopeless.

The truth is that nothing worth achieving is easy, and that it will always include failing a lot first. The best thing we can do when we fail (and we will fail) is being open enough to see what might have gone wrong, make adjustments, and try again. Every time we fail in this way, we are that much closer to succeeding.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

If you weren’t afraid …

Quote of the Week
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
― John Lennon

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Affect Tolerance, or How to Love Pain


Affect tolerance is all about learning to tolerate chronic pain.  It’s a big topic, especially around mindfulness practitioners, because being mindful can help someone learn to be OK with chronic pain – even love it!

Having a mindfulness practice helps in at least three ways: it helps us bear pain, it helps us accept aspects of ourselves that we try to ignore (which only serves to intensify the pain), and it helps us adjust our priorities to those that are more in line with life and wellness.

  1. It helps us bear pain. Often when we’re in pain, we make it much worse with our self-talk. “This is intolerable!” “I just can’t do anything with this pain and it makes me so angry!” – are two examples of how we can make the pain we feel remain centre-stage. Learning to separate our negative and un-helpful self-talk from the actual sensations not only provides some objective detachment, but also calms the talk.  This can very effectively reduce the actual sensation of pain. You can see this yourself the next time you feel a pain, say, in your hip: sit in a way that supports that painful part of your body, close your eyes, and breathe.  Then go to the actual area of pain, and imagine breathing right into that area – without attempting to alter the sensation; simply breathing into it; being with it. Do this for a few minutes and notice if there are any changes in the sensation as a result.  Most often, you will notice there is a change – a diminishing or softening of the sensation.
  2. It helps us accept ourselves as a whole, instead of limiting that acceptance to certain parts of ourselves. Pain can be a “pain”, but it can also be a friend – by telling us when we’ve gone too far. As we age, our bodies become increasingly limited in their ability to respond to our demands. Instead of fighting this, honoring what our body is able to do – and not able to do – is going to make us – ultimately – more content, moving from self-judgment and self-criticism to self-appreciation and support.
  3. It helps us adjust our priorities – to those that better serve us. This is closely linked to self-acceptance, and is really an extension of that idea: comparison to others who we judge as more fit or less in pain can only lead to misery. For instance, I can compare myself to my slim friend who can eat anything she wants, then judge myself wanting because I can’t eat anything I want without gaining weight and adding pressure to my knees.  Or, I can chose to focus instead on my successes – my depth of knowledge on what truly nourishes me, for instance; which I have only because I must watch what I eat. My priority can be to be ‘better than’, or it can be to be healthy and happy with what I have.  My choice.

My mother, for a number of reasons, had severe osteoporosis in her old age.  Because of this ailment, she had trouble walking and was almost constantly in pain. At first she fought it and ultimately made things worse by doing so.  Then she learned to accept and live with it, getting on with her life as best she could. She didn’t have a mindfulness practice – not much was known about mindfulness in the Western world at that time – but she did learn to really appreciate what was available to her, along with her limitations.  I can only wonder now what having a practice could have done for her.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .