I recently, and with great trepidation, went to the movie theatre. I generally go to the movies to escape, to have fun, to laugh out loud. But this trip to the movies had me a bit nervous. I wasn’t going to escape. I was going for the express purpose to feel pain. The movie, Sarah’s Key, was exactly what I needed.
Based on the novel with the same title, the story (historical fiction) is about a little Jewish girl’s experience that began with the 2 days in French history when 14,000 Jews were taken from their homes – men, women and children – sent to the Vel d‘Hiv (like the Superdome) and held there in grossly inhumane conditions. They were then ultimately separated from each other and shipped off to work camps including Auschwitz and put to death.
Sarah, the 10 year old protagonist, has an experience you can hardly imagine. (I won’t describe it here so as to not spoil the film if you decide to go see it.) Engulfed in her agony and innocence, I sat and watched her life unfold. While I’ve never been through anything even remotely close to what she experienced, I found myself relating to her – to the innocence in making mistakes and to the awareness that, at times, despite one’s innocence, there is no redemption.
Who here, reading this blog, has never experienced that – a time when there were no second chances? When your part in a marriage led to its ultimate demise? When a friendship ended and if you had understood your part in things you might have done things differently? When you recognize the mistakes you made in parenting and you wish you could do it over again?
But why in the world would I be looking to increase pain by going to the movies and why would feeling the pain of no-second-chances bring me a sense of relief in the end? Aside from being a bit of a masochist, I am aware – and I work hard to teach my clients this – that what causes so much pain in our lives is the avoidance of pain. (See my post called Clean vs. Dirty Pain) I have been avoiding the pain-of-no-second-chances lately and I needed a good, solid dose of it to reset my sense of humility, humanity, and awareness.
Think about this theory of mine – that avoiding pain is actually what is causing so much pain in our lives. We are raising a generation of kids more in pain than we have seen in generations, if not ever. Why? Because in our efforts to give them the best we can possibly give them, we have become overprotective – to the point where we orbit our lives around easing their every pain and discomfort. We buy them too much, we warn them too much, we coddle them too much. I do it everyday. I fight the urge everyday, though, because, in preventing their pain, I undermine their ability to experience their own resilience. I prevent their sense of empowerment from ever emerging.
Think about your marriage. When was the last time you sat down to have a serious discussion about the problems you’re having? Has it been a while? Years? Are things improving? Are you less anxious in the quiet of the night? What I find is that we may gain some relief by not having a serious look at our marital dilemmas in the short term, but in the long term, our anxieties increase dramatically.
What are you waiting for? Have that serious discussion you’ve been avoiding. If you feel lost as to how to do that, get help. The kind of process I can help you walk through is not to ease your pain in the short term, but to help you increase your ability to face pain, which is what helps people become more resilient, have more contentment, and experience more intimacy and sense of connection to others for the long term.
What’s your experience with avoiding pain? In your marriage? With your kids? Are you teaching your kids to avoid pain too? Is it bringing you relief or are things gradually getting worse? Leave your comments and remember you can do so anonymously. Just type in a bogus email address. I’d love to hear from you!