empathy

How Reading Psychology Helped Me Accept Pain, Loss And Change

Artwork by  Marine Marbleindex

Artwork by Marine Marbleindex

I became interested in psychology and its immense healing power through understanding when a wisdom tooth started aching. The link between the extraction of a wisdom tooth and acceptance of pain of all kinds, including soul aches, is more of a symbolic nature, but life puts us sometimes in all kinds of situations that hold the capacity of triggering change. It is up to us if we respond to such calls or not.

The painful process of understanding, which involves looking into a metaphoric mirror and not liking what we see is necessary in order to move on.

My intuition sensed it was not only the extraction of the wisdom truth, but more a pretext to analyse pain, my pain and all the pain in the world. I always felt I carried this burden on my shoulders: a pain so big, that could not have been only mine, but more an universal pain. Later on, psychology revealed this mystery and I started a whole series of paintings and poems about the possibility and necessity of pain.

Because I was granted a vivid imagination, I always had a certain distance from the world, I can easily retreat in imagination and ignore all the surroundings. I am a hypersensitive person and I was always quick to close all the doors to the outside world when I felt hurt. But a closed door means nobody going in and nobody going out. It means building your own golden cage. And who else has the key for that door but yourself?

We always try to find ways to escape pain. The unavoidable sorrow of a breakup, the sadness when losing a dear person, the bleeding ego when we get faced with situations we cannot control. But sooner or later, that pain we tried to hide in the depth of our souls makes its way to the surface. Maybe a physical pain appears or a situation that we connect to and use it as an outburst of our own frustration. Pain is common to all of us, but I believe it should be solved on an individual level. It comes as a reaction to the interactions with others, thus it is unavoidable. Maybe we could cancel its possibility by each of us going to live on an island, but if we would do it, there will be no one around to trigger joy inside our hearts. Pain and joy are contraries that are so human. If we don’t want to run away from happiness, we should not run away from pain as well. Just accept it when it comes and be aware that it will pass. Like everything else. 

It was one of those pleasant times of life, I had just started my sabbatical year and had plenty of free time. Nothing really happened, just sunrise and sunset and unrecorded time falling in between, days written on transparent pieces of paper, easily graspable by the wind. A wind blowing away everything and dissolving all the signs of our frail existence. Just laying on terraces in the sun, in parks accompanied by old chess players sitting at round tables, in book stores, carefully selecting the next books to travel with, not only in space, but also in time, or in the theatre to hide from the rain and ordinary emotion. One night, my wisdom tooth started aching, as if an army of small men with little drills and other torture instruments (computers, clocks, and deadlines) entered my head and started climbing my nerves with the gracefulness of acrobats at the circus. So on top of the tasty glass of wine I was having, I decided to take a painkiller. The exquisite combination resulted in bright new visions upon life: we are free, the barriers we add are just in our head, if one persons really wants to do something, then there is nothing to stop this desire. It was one of the rare moments of lucidity, despite the unrecommendable combination that triggered it. It was the lucidity of a daydream or of a pure, rare moment in space and time. But then, there is an army of selves that intervene in our our heads and pull the blinds, letting us be haunted again by torments and uncertainty.

But the pain struck again the next day, when I was having a late, lazy launch and the army of small men with drills and other torment instruments woke up. So I jumped into a taxi and headed to the dentist. A beautiful lady dentist opened the door and I found myself looking at her mesmerised and despite the drills inside my head, I found my flirty nature still awake. Hello there, I said, I would let you do to me whatever you want. Wink.

For when you miss being at peace with yourself: Read Laura’s whimsical story about her sabbatical year in love

The lady dentist inspected the situation and declared: we need to extract the nerve. Ooooo no, you are not extracting any nerve, the rebellious patient replied. The lady dentist did not know that the rebellious patient did not arrive alone at the medical-and-not-only meeting, she came accompanied by an entire army of selves that keep drilling into her consciousness. She was accompanied in fact by Fernando Pessoa. Like a flashback, I remembered the ending of the book called We by Evgheni Zamiatin, in which the main character has his so called organ of happiness removed. Like this, he will be safe from both happiness and pain, becoming a numb creature.

The extraction of the wisdom tooth, though a small surgery, which involves the seclusion of the patient at home afterwards until he or she stops looking like a hedgehog and can eat other things besides soup, is not painful itself due to anaesthesia and painkillers. It is not physically painful, but I found myself falling fast into sorrow. As if suddenly, life has granted me with a reason to suffer and to allow myself to feel all the pain I did not allow myself to feel when I should have.

There was a feeling that I tried postponing by whatever means: I kept my mind busy reading, I went out for drinks, I kept my fingers busy painting, I did everything I could do not to really think about it. But there comes a time when we are faced with certain situations that just dissolve all the resistance points we had carefully constructed since forever. You cannot lie to yourself forever, because what belongs to thin air, becomes thin air in the end. There was a time in my life when I was afraid of speaking out my feelings and desires for fear of being abandoned. The mind has such twisted ways of mistaking the future for the past. If I understand this fear and its roots than I am more likely to speak up my mind in the future and avoid frustration. We are always afraid to speak out our mind, for fear the other will not speak to us anymore, finding us crazy or inappropriate. But all the suppressed feelings will eventually turn back on us, especially the fury. It turns back on us, disguised into depression.

I found myself after the wisdom tooth extraction, installed in my bed like a demanding king, surrounded by books and paintings and shedding pathetic tears into soup, complaining that nobody cares about how I am, that nobody calls to check how miserable I feel, that I could as well die and the world will go on turning without me. For a king, this is totally unacceptable. A very exaggerated reaction, I know. When I finally abandoned my self pity and complaint nest and started again walking around the city, I regained clarity and started analysing the imminence of my insanity if I don’t kick myself hard to get out of that dim pit. I was sick of being a frustrated person. So I started reading psychology.

I was wandering through the book stores, I have this pleasant habit, I can totally loose track of time inside a book store, when my hands picked up a certain book. The memories of C.G.Jung. And from that moment on, life was not the same for me. As I was slowly learning valuable insights about the human mind, the fog over my mind started diminishing, and together with it, I was regaining emotional balance. It was precisely on that day when my hands touched randomly that book of Jung, when I put the first brick of the bridge between my two separated sides: the mind and the heart. Nowadays I think that everyone should have basic knowledge of psychology because psychology is everywhere, it is in the way we connect to each other and in our inner life. If we really want to build something, we should first practice the art of understanding ourselves.

Is Psychology Not Your Cup Of Tea? You Might Love This Short, Magical Poem About The Key To Happiness

Months later, I came back on the dentist chair for a routine check. I was in a chattery mood and I started talking to the lady dentist. I told her I paint and write and I became a psychology enthusiast. We talked about the mind and the heart and about dreams. I even did a quick analysis of one of her recurrent dreams. I left the dentist cabinet recommending her to read Jung.

Later on, I found myself sitting on a bench in a park, under a chestnut tree, having a sandwich for dinner, looking at the numerous crows circling the sky and rolling in my mind the words from a poem I wrote about the possibility and necessity of pain:

As I bow down in front of the necessity of pain
Me, my shadow and the butterfly we live in now
I ask you one last question:
If you had a wisdom tooth
That was also painful
Besides being wise
And one day it had been extracted
Leaving your roots blown by the wind
One of those under water winds
That could drag you down
Or help you float,
Would you ask yourself this
Or am I the only one mad here
Next to my shadow, in the butterfly we live in now,
Would you ask yourself this:
What if
After removal,
my wisdom tooth will grow again
Would I accept this
Would I accept the possibility of pain?
Would I?

Laura Livia Grigore is a poet, painter and psychology enthusiast, with a background in space engineering. She likes to experiment with various mediums and types of writing. Her artwork is orientated on emotions, reflecting her opinion that most of the answers we need can be found inside ourselves, although the hardest thing to do is to be sincere with oneself. You can purchase her book here

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