How Can We Be at Peace When We Carry So Much Pain? by John Dennison

I spend a lot of time talking with people. And frankly, sometimes those conversations aren’t easy — for the others involved, or for me.

One thing they learn is that I listen, even when they wish I wouldn’t. I hear what they say. I hear what they don’t. I notice the judgments and beliefs that come out in the comments they make and positions they take. And I feel the undercurrents of energies that often flow unseen beneath the surface.

Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me, and the years of practice dissecting arguments and framing facts to persuade others to see things my way. Or maybe it’s just the way I am, built to challenge beliefs and perspectives that pit people against each other and keep them in a state of conflict.

But when I get the chance to cut through the initial resistance to my exploration and all the emotional overlays built upon and around their carefully constructed (and justified) positions, inevitably what I find are deep scars inflicted upon their psyche from the pains of situations past.

I’m the first to admit I’m no psychotherapist and don’t understand the ins and outs of the psychological processes and how to heal those wounds. That is best left to a qualified medical practitioner.

But after 30+ years practicing law, and a lifetime of listening, I’ve discovered that it’s hard to solve problems in any meaningful or lasting way unless the intense energies involved — both mental and emotional — can be dissipated and allowed to pass.

Most of us, though, don’t want to let go of these protective mechanisms. They’ve become our comfort zones, our trusted and closest companions, ever-ready to protect us against what we’ve done to ourselves.

Self-inflicted wounds

Done to ourselves? Indeed!

Because nothing anyone does in life — whether to us, against our interests, or to those we care about — can have any impact upon us unless we let it. The way it appears to me, many of us hold tight to the pain those situations bring (which many would say we create or draw to ourselves), rehashing it within ourselves over and over again, and projecting the resulting thoughts, emotions and judgments upon similar people and circumstances in the future so it won’t happen to us again.

If I didn’t know better, I’d almost swear that we love our pain and don’t want to let it go. It makes us feel alive (even though after a while holding onto it deadens us to the flow of life, numbing us so that future events won’t hurts so much), almost reveling in the way it makes us feel.

Yet, like most things we abhor, the scars we carry inflict far more damage upon us and our relationships with the outer world than any hurt caused by the circumstances that set our pain in motion. But just as scars leave disfiguring marks upon our bodies, these emotional scars leave deformities upon our personalities and ability to relate to others.

Look at the pain

For myself and many I’ve counseled, I’ve found that looking at all the protective barriers we’ve erected around our pain is the first step in dismantling them. That means recognizing the judgments we carry and resentments we harbor against those who’ve done us wrong, and how those keep coming back to steal our peace today.

It doesn’t stop there, however. For once those mechanisms are challenged and their hold loosened, the next step means going into our pain itself. Examining it. Studying it. Seeing how it affects us and manifests in the different parts of our lives.

And perhaps most importantly, feeling it. Really feeling it. Knowing that we hurt, that we have suffered at the hands of others. And accepting that perhaps the biggest injury was at our own hands, at our own guilt in not being perfect, for not living up to the image we or others held for us. Or perhaps simply for allowing things to affect us the way they did,

The hardest part, though, is to acknowledge it, and to forgive ourselves the so-called weaknesses of our humanity. This is a burden we have for whatever reason decided to carry. So now we must find a way to move forward despite its weight, putting it down if we can, and if not, recognizing and mitigating its influence every time it rears its ugly head.

Until we do, it will always be lurking beneath the surface. Always watching and waiting for the next situation to arise when we can call forth our defenses and send out our energies to repel any perceived attack.

This is a hard way to live. What makes it even harder, though, is that it steals our peace and saps our ability to bring our best to every moment, much less get the most that it offers.

We’ve got to let it go

If you want peace in your time, I ask you to begin looking at your own life. Where are the situations that make you uncomfortable, that trigger response mechanisms or patterns of behavior you wish you didn’t have and others certainly wish you didn’t direct at them.

Try to peek behind the veil of the beliefs and perspectives you use to color your world. Seek out whatever hides beneath the surface. Just maybe you’ll find there’s some pain that you harbor inside.

For your sake, if you find any, I pray you let it go. Give it to a therapist. Give it to God. Or even give it to me. But by all means, give it up.

Life’s too short to be carrying all that around with you.

God bless you indeed.


john dennisonJohn Dennison is a lawyer, peacemaker and problem solver who addresses the challenges of a world locked in chaos and conflict. An engaging speaker, author, and publisher of, he shares perspectives on how people can move through the problems in a better way to make a difference in their lives and world. To get his free newsletter or have him speak to your group, visit him at

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