The Other Side of Pain
By Fouad Alaa
People can experience a lot of crap in their lives and they think that it makes them know better or become different just to have experienced it, but it is not about the amount of pain you feel, it is about how much that pain taught you and whether you allow it to affect you in a negative or positive way.
For as long as I can remember, the only effective, yet brutal, method of self-improvement is to hate myself enough to either do what I want or become who I want to be.
Like most people, I have a goal, and that is to become an internationally-recognised cardio-thoracic surgeon. And like all goals that are hard to achieve, it requires a specific set of skills, persistence, patience and determination.
Pain is my natural resource that fuels the angry beast inside me. The beast that makes the fear go away, the fear of doing great or terrible things and sometimes both. When I was 15, I graduated high school with a big smug smile on my face, yet a year before that I got kicked out of my house for almost failing that year.
What happened between failing out of school and graduating within the year was the discovery of using pain as fuel.
Being an only child raised by a typical Egyptian grandmother, I had no choice other than to be perfect … and I mean PERFECT! Since I was the first grandson and the son of the eldest son, in my culture, I lived under a microscope and even a tiny screw up was frowned upon.
But I was an atypical Egyptian teenager, so i had no choice other than to rebel. So when I almost failed my first year in high school, Tita (‘grandma’ in Egyptian) lost all hope and sent me away to my mum’s house; not to be disciplined but to avoid the responsibility of a failed investment.
My mum, by comparison, was pretty chill; she didn’t really care about my grades as long as I didn’t have to repeat a year. It’s not that she didn’t have any expectations of me, it’s just that she didn’t bother about academics as long as I was doing fine and was well-adjusted.
So when I realised that I was the only one who still believed in me and that everyone else had lost hope, it was a painful realisation. I was hurt… and soon enough I was angry. Before I knew it, I was attending extra classes and averaging 3-4 hours of pure study a day. I pushed myself harder than I had ever done in anything. My dream was slipping away and I felt that I couldn’t rely on any sort of external support. In short, I was the underdog.
After sleepless nights of study, caffeine-addiction and self-loathing for letting things get so bad, I retook every test that year over the summer.
All those hours had paid off: I aced every academic challenge in my last year until I graduated top of my class. I made it a habit before every exam to remember how painful it was to have no one believe in me , just to feel that anger. Over time, I developed my method and applied it in every case whenever I needed to change something about myself or get over an obstacle (or sometimes even trauma).
It became my way to deal with pain.
Sometimes painful things happen, and sometimes you have no control over them. The method is simple; when you face things head-on, there is always the risk of getting hurt. You feel angry about how you allow yourself to be affected or the fact you are affected.
Soon enough that pain can becomes a booster. You can either improve yourself because now you know better than to repeat the same mistake, or you make yourself adapt better and faster to the new situation or challenge.
Pain is nothing. It is actually less than nothing; it is the lack of something. Where darkness is the lack of light, pain is the lack of pleasure. An absence of a certain element causes discomfort, and its restoration retrieves the balance, resulting in pleasure.
However, facing the pain and refilling that empty space is better than living in fear of losing anything. So in a way, avoiding pain is avoiding pleasure. Everyone has their own way of dealing with pain. What matters most is trying to view it as a learning opportunity.
Take the opportunity to test your ability to take on the challenge of moving on; or even better, push yourself to come out the other side with more than just an experience, but a glorious victory.
Fouad Alaa (also known as ‘Fox’) is a writer who brings fresh perspective to everyday life issues. A young Egyptian who has lived in several parts of the world, he now resides in Sarawak, Malaysia. With a medical background and a working knowledge of psychology, he plays therapist to his peers and aspires to be a world renowned surgeon.