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It Hurts So Good

It sounds odd, but pain is an absolutely genius creation, designed by God to trigger us into avoiding or getting out of a potentially dangerous situation. It's like touching a hot stove.  As soon as you feel the pain, you immediately pull your hand away, avoiding further damage to your body. Along with that, you learn very quickly not to do it again.

Pain is one of our fastest teachers. Your brain has certain systems in place that remember rewards and punishment. It's like Ivan Pavlov's famous experiment on conditional reflex. Every time he fed his dogs, he would ring a bell first. Very quickly, the dogs associated the sound of the bell with being fed, and after a while, whenever they heard a bell ring, they would begin to salivate, even when there was no food brought out. Now that was a positive reaction, much more easily assocaited with addictions, but pain works in a very similar way. Our responses (behavior) become conditioned to certain (often completely harmless) stimuli. That's why most people hit the deck when they hear a gunshot. We associate the sound with pain and we respond, almost without thinking, to protect ourselves.

This does not just work with physical pain, however. Emotional pain is far more potent and can be far more controlling. Once we learn that things are painful emotionally (like opening up the deepest places of our hearts to someone only to have them reject us and turn their back on us), we become more and more prone to avoid those similar situations in the future.

Now, that kind of pain can protect us for a season, but it can also cripple us if we don't find healing for that wound. And healing is a process. Wounds can stay sore for a long time, and the really bad ones can even fester and become infected - an easy door for the enemy to get his foot in. Even when they are healing, our wounds remain sore, causing us to take extra care to protect them and to use the wounded areas to less than their full potential. It's like a twisted ankle... you treat it gently for a while to prevent further injury and to give it time to heal, and you try not to walk on it as much as possible (you certainly wouldn't go running on it) until it is fully healed.

Yet even the act of healing can be painful (sometimes even more so than the injury itself). Think of surgery, or setting a broken bone, or going through a detox program. Sometimes healing hurts a lot. That's especially true for emotional pain. That kind of pain can be deceptive. Still working to protect us, it is instead keeping us from being whole again.

One of the amazing parts of our brain's defense system is its ability to sense when we cannot deal with or process a painful event. Knowing our inability to process a situation, our brains block that pain until a later time, when we are able to handle it. It completely shuts out the painful memory (sometimes as quickly as the event happened) to protect us from incapacitating pain and to allow us to continue to function in the midst of an extreme situation. When these memories come up later, it can be very frustrating, but this defense tactic may very well have saved your life. The fact is, many times the healing process is the first time you've allowed yourself to feel the pain of your wounds. It may be the first time you've really experienced some of the traumatic moments of your past, and that's not easy.

Healing hurts. We don't say this to scare you, but to prepare you, because the freedom on the other side is absolutely incredible, and though it's not easy to feel all that pain, it's definitely worth it.

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