The Other Side of Pain

By Fouad Alaa
@fouad_aka_fox

 

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 profile picFouad 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.

 

You may also like...

  • Commenter

    I’M currently experiencing some mind-blowing personal hardship, and, as has often been the case in my life, fate sent along something relevant for me to read: in this case, a piece on pain, published on 18th November, in the Borneo Post’s online SEEDS section.

    I thought ‘The Other Side of Pain’ was an interesting article, and it raised some questions within me, the result of which is this response piece.

    “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.”

    Pain, in my opinion, is not an abstract concept. Whether it be physical, emotional or psychological, it is a personal and tangible form of suffering that can devastate and destroy.
    To say that pain is merely the opposite of pleasure is, I feel, simplistic, and shows a lack of insight, experience, maturity and empathy.

    There are many forms of pain, as many as the individuals who experience it and the people and events that cause it.

    For example, the pain caused by a bad break-up would be markedly different from the pain experienced when a loved one dies. Having experienced both scenarios I can attest to how what I felt in each case was totally dissimilar.

    When my mother passed away, I felt I had lost a best friend and confidante. We had a great relationship and I missed her badly, but the pain I felt did not affect me negatively.

    On the other hand, I recently broke up with a man who had lied to and cheated on me the entire time we were together, and the pain I felt as a result of that parting of ways involved a whole lot of negative emotions. That pain included feeling a loss of trust and self-esteem, and manifested in hatred, bitterness and anger.

    However, break-ups, although invariably painful, don’t have to be ugly, and honesty tends to be a key factor in ensuring that no one ends up feeling like they’ve been metaphorically disembowelled.

    “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.”

    What the article doesn’t mention is time. Time heals … if you let it. But time, unfortunately, takes time. In the meanwhile, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to immediately “view [pain] as a learning opportunity”.

    Don’t worry if the anger you experience is merely making you feel murderous and not transforming you into a straight-A student or record-breaking athlete. We are all different and have different ways of dealing with pain.

    Pain can make you strong, but it can break you, and it’s important to know that being overcome by hurt doesn’t make you weak, just human.

    “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.”

    After my recent break-up, there was a period when the people close to the guy who hurt me tried to (whether consciously or otherwise) to make me acknowledge the part I played in the whole debacle. Apparently, I should have seen it coming and had no right to be so angry. Apparently, I had wanted too much from him. Apparently, because I was depressed, he had no choice but to lie to me. One of his friends said to me that I should stop blaming others for the turn my life had taken.

    Believe me I ended up doing a whole lot of soul-searching to avoid doubting myself and my emotions. Thankfully, I seem to have emerged with my self-esteem intact, despite being severely bruised, no thanks to the “advice” I received.

    Painful things do happen and yes, I had no control over what that person did to me. But I realised that it’s important to remember that he had control over his actions. He had the choice to be honest or not; to be faithful or not.

    The lesson I learnt from this experience is that sometimes it’s nothing to do with you. Sometimes, it’s all to do with someone else being rotten to the core. So, when you face things “head-on” and are unfortunate enough to meet these lower life forms and suffer hurt as a result of their selfishness and immaturity, it’s OK to blame them for messing up your life. In fact, it’s really important to know that they are to blame, and to never think that it’s what you did or who you are who caused them to behave that way.

    “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.”

    I have no doubt I’ll come out of my recent experience triumphant. It’s been devastating but I finally feel like I’m recovering from the pain of being well and truly fibbed to by someone I’d told my friends was “the love of my life”.

    Moving on, in this case, is a matter of waiting for my heart to catch up with my brain: I now know that the person I thought he was didn’t really exist, but unfortunately, my heart still remembers the love I felt for this “phantom”.

    I won’t need to push myself to recover from this terrible experience. I know that I’ll be just fine because I have everything I need to be OK: Good and loving friends and family; a successful career; a brilliant brain; and a kind and loving heart.

    One day, I’ll no longer feel this pain I feel now. One day, I’ll be able to think of the person who hurt me and feel nothing. One day, I’ll be able to wish him well and mean it. In the meantime, I’ll wish him well anyway. Pain can turn you into a monster – a cold, raging beast – and understandably so, but in order to truly move on, you have to try to be better than the people who caused it.

    Daphne Lee.

    • Gilda Dorsey

      The exact same thing happens to me and right now I do feel like that revengeful raging monster u describe. What makes it worse it that this happens the 2nd time around after I forgave him for the first 8 month of cheating and lying. I did everything for this guy on all levels. Why are so many men like that?

  • Daphne Lee

    Well done.

%d bloggers like this: