Validating your pain is the first step to getting stronger.


I have dental “issues.” I’m one of the (apparently) very small percentage of people who are difficult to freeze. There are theories, previous orthodontic work, mystery nerve configurations … I’ll spare you. But you can imagine how dental experiences might go in these cases.

Most often, dentists say something like, “There’s absolutely no way you can feel that,” and then they proceed with the drill. And I endure, thinking, It’s all in my head, or, It’s meant to hurt a bit, and I deep-breathe and body-clench my way through it.

Until I found my current dentist. He started a procedure, I started to wince, and he said, “You can feel that, can’t you!” And I mumbled, “Ya! I CAN!” And he said, very kindly, “You’re one of those!” Eureka! And I started to get teary, not from pain but from relief that finally, someone got me, and finally, I knew it wasn’t in my head. I could feel it.

So ya, I have dental baggage. But I recently got permission to put it down …

I’m having a basic dental cleaning. The hygienist hits a spot and my whole body jerks. It was far from excruciating. It was just, nervy. We actually both laughed at how dramatic my physical reaction was.

And … my first response was, “It’s okay.” In a nano-second I told myself, despite the evidence, that it didn’t actually happen. “Keep going, I can take it,” I told her. And then this: “But you shouldn’t have to take it,” she said. “We can make this easy for you.” And she gave me a pinch of freezing in the right place and we sailed on.

Default refrain: I can take it.
Paradigm-shifting response: But you shouldn’t have to.


  • Acknowledgement first, analysis second. If you have a reaction — a rush of emotion, a dark thought lunges in, a curious question circles your mind, your stomach flips, or your heart goes ba-boom — then something is really actually, for real, for sure happening to you. You’re having an experience that is true for you. Never mind qualifying how justifiable or sane your painful or fearful reaction is, just notice that it is really happening — because denying it is a form of insanity.
  • Endurance can be a very unwise choice. As inevitable as emotional and physical suffering is, it doesn’t always serve to make us stronger — sometimes it just wears you right down. Sometimes, the test of strength is to say “This isn’t working,” the millisecond it’s not working.
  • Believe your pain. It’s not a friend you want to invite over, but when it does show up, it always — always — brings you precious information about what’s best for you.
  • Dare to be high maintenance. I bet you’re invincible in many areas of your life. But when you need it, ask for special treatment.
  • You want people on your team who believe you. I have friends who would be dead now if they didn’t keep looking for a doctor who believed what they said or how their body was responding. Keep searching for a lover who understands your vision of partnership, a collaborator who can see your dream, friends who are tuned in enough to say, “Is everything okay?”

Healing happens in resonance, not opposition.

If it hurts, it hurts.

Bring your pain into the light and everything changes.



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