I’ve often said that much of the pain we experience, emotionally and physically, is triggered by our ego…focusing too heavily upon ourselves and too little on others. This insight was recently driven home eloquently when I watched The ThornBirds (opens in a new link) miniseries quickly followed by a reading of Absent In The Spring (opens in a new link) by Agatha Christie.
In The ThornBirds, four of the main characters were driven by their desires. So intense were their desires that they couldn’t see beyond their own ambitions.
In Absent In The Spring, there was only one character who insisted upon having her way. Indeed, she insisted that she knew what was best for everyone…husband, children, friends and acquaintances.
I encourage you to watch The ThornBirds and read Absent In The Spring yourself, for I cannot begin to describe, in these few words, the intensity and magnitude of the pain experienced by the characters in these works.
In The ThornBirds, each of the four characters experienced pain in the forms of frustration, anxiety and doubts bordering on hopelessness. As if that weren’t bad enough, they reflected their pain onto those closest to them making them miserable as well. Their pain either made them oblivious to the pain they were causing or indifferent to the fact that they were causing others to experience pain. After all, they were suffering so why shouldn’t others suffer as well?
The Absent In The Spring character experienced anxiety and frustration when she felt that those closest to her were making poor decisions. Her pain went away as she insisted upon things being her way e.g. she badgered her husband until he accepted a career he didn’t enjoy, knowing that it was in his best interests.
Similarly, she exerted so much control over her children in their early years that they distanced themselves from her as they embarked upon lives of their own. She had few friends even though she was active in the community.
In both, The ThornBirds and Absent In The Spring, the characters eventually became aware of that their behavior was serving neither them nor their loved ones well. ThornBirds characters chose to change their behaviors. They acknowledged their mistakes to their loved ones and apologized for the pain they’d caused. The love and joy experienced as a result of their changed behavior were palpable.
The Absent In The Spring character suffered greatly as she became aware of what she’d done and the impact it had on her family. She made this discovery during a period of self-reflection caused by a multi-day weather delay in her travels.
She committed to apologizing to her husband and children. She even unburdened herself to a stranger during her trip home. Yet, when she arrived home, she couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge the pain she had caused much less apologize for it. Instead, she affirmed her belief that she had acted unselfishly in helping those she loved avoid poor decisions.
These works highlight two of many different ways in which our ego causes pain not only for us, but for those around us…especially those closest to us.
In The ThornBirds, three of the characters were driven by unrequited love. The fourth was torn between two desires…career ambition and a woman’s love. The Absent In The Spring woman was driven by a belief that she knew what was best for everyone. Her “concern” for others’ welfare was born of a sense of superiority of judgment. She prided herself in being able to see the folly of others’ wishes and knowing what was best for them.
To some extent, and with varying frequencies, we all experience these feelings. It’s only when we allow our focus to be what we want without considering the impact on others that we begin to inflict pain upon ourselves and others. The longer our focus remains on what we desire to the exclusion of others’ interests, the greater our sense of fear, anxiety, frustration, doubt and hopelessness.
But when we shift our focus to enriching the lives of others, we experience joy. Our ability to help others brings both them and us joy. We have a sense of having value and purpose. And, if we’re experiencing physical pain, that pain is lessened as well.
There are two keys to enjoying the latter experience:
- When you’re experiencing emotional pain, remind yourself that it’s self-inflicted…that you’re allowing your ego to focus on yourself which intensifies the pain.
- Choose to focus your attention on helping others achieve what they desire or deal with a problem they’re facing and you’ll experience instantaneous relief.
Sounds simple, but then the best solutions always are.
For our kids
When your kids are experiencing pain, let them know that you find that when you shift your attention away from yourself and toward helping others you automatically feel better. Emotional pains go away completely and physical pains lessen.
By all means, live this message. Kids will accept this message more readily when they see you living it.
Help the kids in your life understand that, when they’re experiencing pain, they have a choice. They can either continue to focus on themselves and intensify their pain or they can shift their focus to helping others and alleviate their pain. The choice is theirs…just as it is for you.
Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your wisdom in a comment.
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