What's the biggest joke in life

How pain makes us who we are

“Need prepares ordinary people for extraordinary lives.” - C.S. Lewis

Sometimes I can't breathe, it hurts so much. The grief after the death of a dearly loved one - I think that is the greatest pain there is.

"Mental pain is often triggered by an individually felt stress or loss experience, such as so-called 'critical life events'", says the psychologist Dr. Donya A. Gilan from the German Resilience Center Mainz. That could be a serious illness, a serious accident, a move to another place of residence or the death of a relative.

"Separation or the pain of separation may feel like an amputation and thus also affect the feeling of identity," says psychologist and grief researcher Professor Hansjörg Znoj from the University of Bern.

While I hope that it will get less bad as soon as possible, I also know that it will not be the last deep soul pain in my life. And I ask myself for the hundredth time: Wouldn't it be damn nice if we humans just felt a lot less or no suffering?

Well Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

No maturity without pain

Because emotional pain is important to us. The scientists Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi have investigated the extent to which catastrophes and crises let people mature - this phenomenon is called post-traumatic growth. The term describes "the positive change as a result of struggling with a major life crisis or a traumatic event".

This has been known as a motif since ancient times, for example in literature. On the other hand, the psychologists write on their website that they have specifically examined this topic scientifically. However, the team also makes it clear: “We're definitely not saying traumatic events are good - they are not. But for many of us life crises are inevitable. "

[Also at ze.tt: How we can help those who mourn]

What's the point?

The development usually takes place in three phases: Even during or immediately after a crisis, everything feels dark and confusing; Values ​​are questioned, the whole of life seems pointless. This is followed by an attempt to find some meaning in what happened. And finally - based on what has been experienced - new values ​​are formed; those affected usually actually find a new meaning. They are grateful for life and often even for the crisis itself.

Overall, according to Tedeschi and Calhoun, grief, pain, and suffering have led to increased emotional awareness in most people. The psychologists have also examined what forms this post-traumatic growth can take on in principle.

Here are five ways we can grow with emotional pain:

1. We gain inner strength

Only in crisis situations, only through suffering and hardship, are our values ​​formed and tested. Anyone who has lived through deep, emotional pain and major catastrophes in life knows much better who he * she really is and is more solid in life.

2. We learn

“Pain is a feedback system, it is used for orientation. I usually don't reach for a second time where I've burned myself, at least not on purpose. It is similar with mental pain, ”says Professor Znoj. So we would learn to avoid appropriate people or situations.

In addition, successfully coping with the pain triggered by grief can help to better deal with future grief situations, the resilience researcher Dr. Donya A. Gilan. "Just as successfully coping with a stressful situation can help to master future stressful situations."

3. We are more compassionate

Only if you know how terrible pain feels can you have compassion for others in similar situations. “People who cannot suffer emotional pain are ultimately hardly capable of empathy and have to laboriously learn things like 'change of perspective', to see the world from someone else's point of view,” explains Professor Znoj. In extreme cases, one speaks of psychopathy.

4. We are more grateful

Crisis survivors particularly enjoy the little things that are supposed to be taken for granted. Stressful situations give us the ability to appreciate the positive aspects of life and develop new ways of coping, says the resilience researcher Dr. Gilan.

In addition, pain forces attention to the here and now and ensures the greatest possible awareness and concentration on the moment. A simple but effective means for a bit more happiness.

5. We allow more closeness

People who have experienced similar suffering feel closer to each other - provided they are brave enough to confide in their pain. If we succeed, we feel more connected. And those who can open up in this way experience more intense bonds and more intimacy.

[Also at ze.tt: The dangerous loneliness of the big city dwellers]

Just happy? Creepy!

We all go through different stages of emotional maturation in life. Sure, mental suffering is not a nice feeling - but the relief when it's over is. Studies have shown that after overcoming suffering, the perceived level of happiness increases briefly. And beyond the previous level.

[Also at ze.tt: How you get along with your life despite a bad childhood]

In addition: Those who are permanently only happy and satisfied would hardly be able to recognize and feel happiness as such at all - because it would be the unchanged normal state. Above all, we don't even know who we are and where our limits are.

“It becomes difficult to develop, strengthen and test one's self-efficacy without critical life situations. The feeling of being able to achieve something yourself and to be able to act independently even in difficult situations, to be able to influence things and the world in a targeted manner, can hardly develop, ”explains Dr. Donya A. Gilan. Critical life situations could increase self-efficacy and be viewed as a stress vaccination.

So next time the pain brings you to your knees, hug it for a change and try to remember that it is he who makes you human. At least it's worth a try.