I was talking to an acquaintance a few months ago, someone I had never really spoken with at any length before.
He told me he was “due” to buy something soon, anything. He wasn’t sure what he’d purchase, but he was really feeling the need for something new to enjoy.
This conversation reminded me of that thing we all suffer from at some time or another and from time to time in life: boredom.
In my professional work I’ve heard it described many different ways, from boredom itself, to ennui, to emptiness, to “racing thoughts” and restlessness, to certain cravings.
In the past I’ve written about this in terms of “Running and Searching” and “Novelty Seeking”.
But right now I just want to talk about the pain that leads to these feelings: Life Pain.
Life Pain starts at birth and it takes on different forms throughout our lives.
In childhood it may take the form of phobias, separation anxiety, generalized fear or anxiety, and various other things.
In adulthood it can take on these forms as well, in addition to various behaviors such as the constant pursuit of stimulation and momentary pleasures–sex and food are two biggies.
Life Pain is that thing that makes a husband harangue and harass his wife for sex when she doesn’t feel like it.
Life Pain is that thing that makes one spouse constantly blame the other for his or her misery or unhappiness.
Life Pain is that thing that makes someone purchase a new vehicle on impulse.
Life Pain is that thing that makes a spouse suddenly turn around and decide that they want to have an affair because they are no longer “in love”.
Life Pain is the hole in our hearts and in our guts.
Life Pain makes us run and search for stimulation and novelty.
Life Pain makes us feel restless and not at peace.
Life Pain makes us decide to do things that we’ll later regret.
But most of all, Life Pain is inescapable and it’s daily.
The good news is that there are ways to cope with it in healthier ways than many of us would otherwise do.
For some, their religious or spiritual beliefs help to fill the void with hope, faith, and peace.
For others, their pursuit of self-actualization and their most competent adult self is the way.
For some others, it’s fitness and a healthy, mindful lifestyle.
And for some people, their lives are so constantly about mere survival that they are not even familiar with their Life Pain, only continuous stress and trauma.
But the bottom line is this: Life Pain is part of life. And the more we remember to think about and acknowledge this on a daily basis, the less likely we are to do the unnecessary, sometimes destructive and wasteful things that we do to try to escape it or to try to feel “alive”.
How many lives do you know of that have been ruined or that have ended too soon while trying to escape Life Pain?
You and I both know people who’ve fallen this way and our hearts have hurt for them.
I advise you to take a daily inventory of the intensity your Life Pain, as well as your momentary impulses to try to get away from it.
Whether it be that new car, that new mistress or ‘mister’, that drink, or even that project or activity–please be careful about where your motivation is coming from.
And if you find that your motivation is coming primarily from a need to escape or to “feel alive”, you may want to look a little closer before deciding to actually do what you were about to do.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)