Pissing Contest of Pain

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Tiger has a funny habit on walks. Whenever we encounter another dog (especially if it is a male, dominant-type animal), he begins to pee on everything around. He reaches his leg high, sometimes almost losing his balance, just to aim the stream as high on the tree or post as possible. It’s as though he wants to send the message that he is the big dog and none can top him.

It’s a humorous habit yet one with deeply ingrained motivations.

We humans don’t tend towards literal pissing contents (well, except for that one epic battle that occurred in the boy’s bathroom in my kindergarten class!) but we are no strangers to the impulse to be the top dog.

Sometimes this competitive drive propels us to reach new heights in business or fitness. Sometimes it can be a powerful motivator to do better. To be better.

Yet we also engage in pissing contests that hold no promise of anything better.

We compete to compete even when doing so holds us back.

We want to be the best even when being the best means that we aim to convince others that our pain is greater. That our suffering cannot be beat. That our torment tops all others.

Pain is such a strange thing – universal and yet personal. Subjective. Well known and yet unknowable.

We have a strange drive to want our pain to be understood.

So we share.

And then others share.

Often times, we empathize, recognizing another in pain and reaching out in solidarity.

But sometimes, especially when the pain is still acute, we respond with defensiveness. Frustration at not being understood. Believing that their pain is but a trickle compared to the torrent surrounding us.

For those who have been betrayed, this need for their betrayer to experience their pain is strong. Powerful. Even all-consuming.

We respond by holding on to our suffering. Claiming it. Owning it.

Adding to it until its edges cannot be seen.

We reach that leg up high, releasing the pain for all to see.

It is ours. And ours alone.

I have become so aware of this pissing contest of pain in the comment section of The Huffington Post. It seems like readers want to top one another with their tales of woe with no intent of letting go.

Some stay there, content to won the pissing contest. Their pain is the worst. Their territory clearly marked by signs of suffering.

Others become aware that it is a winless contest. That everyone’s pain is their own and that no one will be fully able to feel yours and, more importantly, no one else can remove yours. That you are more than the sum of your sufferings and that despair is not the badge you want to wear.

You learn that the true release of pain comes with acceptance, not competition.

Tiger continues to be driven by his instincts long after the well has run dry, holding his leg high for an invisible stream. We have the ability to outsmart our drives, to keep our legs down and to continue to move forward. It’s not a contest. You don’t win by tallying the most pain.

You win by letting go and moving on. Even if someone’s pissing on the post behind you.

Related:

Adhesion

Trigger Points

You Shouldn’t Feel That Way

Are You a Mental Hoarder?

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Pissing Contest of Pain

  1. It is amazing how in the beginning we fight the pain because we do not want it (so we off-load it onto others) and then eventually we accept that the pain is ours and it is at that point of accepting it that it disappears.

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