Episode 95: Getting Around the Brain’s Pain Paradox

Episode Summary

For most of us, what really gets in the way of creating the life we want is pain. We have a natural, biological aversion to pain that has been useful in keeping us alive. But the need to avoid pain and solve for pain and live a life free from pain can actually keep us from doing the things we want.

One of the most powerful things you can understand is that while your brain has a built-in instinct to avoid pain, your brain is actually the only thing in your life creating your pain.

In today’s episode, I’m looking at two of the questions I get as a coach—why we don’t take action and why it’s hard to love people—and answering them with this principle in mind. Being aware of your brains tend to want to avoid pain while actually being the source of your pain, can help you understand yourself better so that you can create the life you want. 

Episode Tools and Questions

Consider the idea that what gets in the way of making the changes we want in life is pain. That what may be in the way to get what you want, the relationship you want, becoming the person you want, creating the money or the career you want, is the discomfort those things require and our deep human desire to avoid pain. 

On a side note, what I mean by "pain" is negative emotion of some kind.

There are two main questions I get that help Illustrate this idea and will show you how to shift your thoughts to overcome your pain. 

Question 1: Why don't I do what I want to do?  

Often people explain to me how they have things in life that they think they want to be doing, tell themselves that they want to do them, and make a plan to do them, but then when the moment of doing comes, I don't do them. Why is that?

The simple answer is that we are trying to avoid pain. Or at least our brain is. Our brain always wants the easiest, the most pleasurable, the least painful, and most energy-efficient way. It wants the path of least resistance.

And when we go to do things in our life—doing is never the path to least resistance. Not doing is the easiest. But, we think because we want a certain result, our brains should also want to do the work to get the result. But this is never the case. Our brain never wants to.

This is what gets in the way. We expect our brain to want to. 

First, we think that doing this thing shouldn't hurt or be hard. And then we believe that if it does hurt, the hurt shouldn't bother my brain; it shouldn't protest. What we have to do is first stop expecting it NOT to be hard, and stop expecting our brain NOT to protest. And it's not a problem that our brain protests and produces pain and negative emotion. But we have to stop waiting for those two things to be different before we act. 

Question 2: If I love people like they are, if I accept them as they are, then isn't it all on me?

When we deal with difficult people or find it hard to love other people or feel some kind of negative emotion about them, it feels terrible. It's painful. And your brain thinks that this other person, by doing what they do, acting as they act, or saying what they said, created your pain. They are the source of your negative emotion.

The only problem with this is that if their behavior is the source of your pain, then their behavior is also the solution to your pain. And we have to get them to change and be different to feel better. Like our brain, of course, is on a mission to have less pain, and it thinks that for sure I have to control these people and control the world, and people have to be different for that to happen.

But the truth is what is happening in your brain has misidentified the source of its pain, and it's trying to solve for the pain by solving the wrong problem.


The Truth Is

And this is why it is always up to you to feel better. When we give up our painful emotions, it is something we do for ourselves, not them. If I choose to feel love instead of anger, I am the one that feels it. They won't feel anything. 

The cause of our pain is always our thinking, which means it's the solution as well.

Episode Notes

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