The Power of Compassion in the Meeting with Pain

Addiction is such an understandable response to pain because as human beings we need to escape it.

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As a child, if you had nobody to share your pain with, that’s your trauma.” — Gabor Maté


People connect us with ourselves. Trustworthy people. People who value you. People who treat you as you need to be treated. And our job is to be that person to each and everyone we meet.

We usually find, however, that we cannot be that person to each and every person we meet for the simple reason that either people shut us out, or we’re not capable of embodying compassion for others because we have so little compassion for ourselves.

In each of us, and in each and every other person, is the wounded child who literally had nobody when they most needed comfort—that’s our trauma.


Children don’t get traumatized because they get hurt, children get traumatized because they’re alone in their hurt.” — Gabor Maté


It isn’t the pain itself that crushes our hopes. It’s finding that there’s no way to appease the pain. We grow up somehow knowing that there’s no way to appease pain, but the biggest, most cosmic lie is that there IS a way of appeasing pain, and that’s through meeting the pain with compassion.

When someone meets you and holds you in that most lonely of places, there, right there, you’re given both the strength and the reason to look deep enough within to face your pain. And the most monumental power exists in experiencing this victory—even once!


Your depression was a major success… [respondent] you mean to say that having that pain showed me deeper inside of myself how I was abandoning myself…” — Gabor Maté


Imagine flipping the reality of the shame you had/have for or in your depression, anxiety, and every other mental health malady, and began to see that in these most painful of places was the true source of healing.

In these sad and fearful states, we’re closer to our truer selves than ever, because at least we’re being honest about how we feel.

For most of the rest of our lives, we’re busy putting on a brave front that serves no end or purpose other than to delay the inevitable.

Dissociating from ourselves will only end up sending us into more harm.


We cannot get better until we face how we feel, and deal with the feelings of discomfort, regret, vulnerability, abandonment, and loss. Facing our pain is not the end, it’s the beginning. But the pain itself can feel worse than death. If only we can go there with a safe friend who can hold us.


When people are suffering, they want to escape their suffering—that’s normal.” — Gabor Maté


Most people escape their suffering by entering into addiction—anything, whether it’s openly common and socially accepted addiction or a quiet and secret and shameful one.

Addiction is such an understandable response to pain because as human beings we need to escape it.

We always lack something—someone with whom to share and to process our pain.

So, we ‘process’ our pain in our escapism, and we never truly escape.

In other words, the more we escape and don’t deal with our pain, the more our pain keeps us captive to the point we cannot escape.

We all enter meetings with our pain. What we need to take with us there is compassion. When we hold hands with compassion in our pain, our pain is bearable and processable.


Acknowledgment to The Wisdom of Trauma film by Gabor Maté.



This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework

Featured Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.