The Pain Post

The Scream by Edward Munch.
Photograph courtesy of Christopher Macsurak/Flickr.

To be human is to feel pain. Show me a soul that has walked this earth, that has lived and died unscathed, unscarred—physically and emotionally.

I am writing this post to you from home, in bed, and in pain. Physical pain. A lot of it. And emotional pain too, because of that deep, mind-body connection we hear so much about.

I can barely walk. I can barely think. But I will write, and hopefully make a personal experience universal.

When I am in pain, I think of my Grandmother who used to say, “This too shall pass.” She would also say, “Carry on.” She would also say “Shhhh…. simmer down now!” It used to be trendy to buy journals or wear t-shirts with the tag line: “Stay calm, and carry on.” Now it's trendy to sport the infinite variations--“stay calm and drink on”; “stay calm and dream on”; and my favorite: “stay calm and dance on." Whenever I see one of the variants, I inevitably smile and chalk it up to a “sign” from her; it would always put things in perspective. And when you have a shift in perspective, regardless of the specifics, it does help mitigate the pain. Somewhat.

Here’s a perspective from the American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. At the beginning of her book, The Wisdom of No Escape, she writes:

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. [However] … We must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is.

My response: sometimes “awareness” or a shift in perspective / attitude adjustment is not enough to pull you out of that figurative abyss, talk you down from that figurative ledge.

And so, when in a situation like that I recommend one thing: surrendering to a meltdown, a freak out, an adult tantrum. Cry. Holler. Scream. Shake your fists at the heavens. Punch your pillows, the wall. Strangle a teddy bear. Rip out the stuffing. Tear things. Break things, like dishes, ones that you don’t care about, and do it outside so you don’t have to clean up. Be destructive. There is enough pressure on us from all sides to be nurturers, creators; sometimes we need to unleash our destructive selves. Yell until your vocal chords hurt, your face turns red, you start getting frothy spit at the corners of your mouth. Curl up in the fetal position and moan. Do all the things that are socially unacceptable, that a responsible adult who is “in control of her life” would never do. Because who are we kidding, we’re not in control. And then on the other hand, we so totally are. What I’m saying is this: give voice to your pain. Release it, discharge it. Because on the other side of a breakdown is a breakthrough. (There’s a t-shirt for you.)

Your freak outs might scare your loved ones, but it’s okay if you talk about it before (like a hurricane warning), or after (like a debriefing session); they will understand. I prefer to have my meltdowns alone and in private, but sometimes that’s not possible.

What do you do if you start to crack while at the airport or while in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store?

Three words: the silent scream.

Are you familiar with the practice of hitbodedot?

Hitbodedot, a technique often practiced by the Haredi community, is when you establish a personal connection with G-d and unburden yourself. There are two methods. The first is releasing a verbal torrent of words (which reminds me a lot of modern psychoanalysis.) The second is releasing a “silent scream.”

The famous Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains:

You can shout loudly in a "small, still voice"… Anyone can do this. Just imagine the sound of such a scream in your mind. Depict the shout in your imagination exactly as it would sound. Keep this up until you are literally screaming with this soundless "small, still voice."
This is actually a scream and not mere imagination. Just as some vessels bring the sound from your lungs to your lips, others bring it to the brain. You can draw the sound through these nerves, literally bringing it into your head. When you do this, you are actually shouting inside your brain.

This is what I’m talking about. This is how we-- both Jews and gentiles-- who are in pain can cope. Because we can’t always break dishes, and we can’t always curl up in the fetal position. But we can send our silent screams up to heaven, cracking the pearly gates, and perhaps loosening the pain-vice that grips our beings.

After I publish this post, I’m going to try it. The “silent scream” that is.

Tell me if you hear anything…

~ ~ ~

And for a little levity, check out the freak out.

This song is from a Nickelodeon, teeny-bopper, made for t.v. movie: Victorious. There’s some serious depth and uncanny connections if you view this song through the lens of this pain post…

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How to cite this page

Orcha, Gabrielle. "The Pain Post." 8 August 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 25, 2024) <>.