When life brings pain your way, it's important to know that it might actually be just the thing you need to move forward. Karen Salmansohn explains how to bounce back from any heart-wrenching situation.
If you could live 10 years of your life in total bliss—with no pain whatsoever—but not remember any of it in the end, would you do it? According to Aristotle, the answer should be no!

My favorite philosopher buddy Aristotle says true happiness comes from gaining insight and growing into your best possible self. Otherwise, all you're having is immediate gratification pleasure, which is fleeting and doesn't help you grow as a person.

In a way, the above scenario is a description of you if you did drugs or drank martinis into oblivion. At the time, it'd feel like you're seeking bliss and getting to avoid pain. But in the long-term, you'd be in flight from reality mode and not enjoying real life, with its inevitable ebbs and flows, all of which give you needed insights and exciting experiences that enable you to live your highest potential life!

Aristotle had a wonderful quote related to this topic: "We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best."

Translation: Life has ebbs and flows. There's no such thing as endless flow.

Unfortunately, life can sometimes feel like ebb, ebb, ebb, brief flash of flow, more ebb, ebb, ebb. Every ebb offers the opportunity for new flavors—a new thought or a new emotion. The more varied the flavors of your life, the more interesting, layered, educated, self-developed, world-experienced and mightier you will be!

In keeping with this theme, Aristotle believed the highest form of knowledge is insight because it's the only knowledge that leads to growth. And, once again, Aristotle emphatically believed that evolving into your highest potential is what leads to true happiness.

For this reason, Aristotle said the reason so many people are unhappy is that they keep foolishly confusing pleasure for happiness. Pleasure is simply about immediate, fleeting gratification of your body/ego. Happiness is about seeking long-term growth for yourself as a thriving individual and nourishing your soul/core self for the long haul of a happily ever after life!

Basically, pain is your evolutionary buddy—serving as a life wake-up call and motivating you to evolve into your highest potential self.

Understandably, when you’re going through a personal tragedy or challenge of any kind, you might not feel this way. Indeed, there’s a strong chance your first instinct during tough times is to head straight into “flight from reality mode”—not wanting to allow yourself to feel the pain you need to feel for growth to occur.

In The Bounce Back Book, I explain how there are many ways to seek this "flight from reality." For example, you can busy yourself with an addiction to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, gambling, sleeping pills, etc. Or you can simply hide your feelings in numbness, isolation or denial. Whatever your flight mode plan, it's essential that at some point you return to reality so you can feel your truthful pain, which will lead you to that blessed gain of growth.

In other words: It's only after you allow yourself to become honestly aware of what you're feeling that it means you're truly dealing—and thereby truly healing.

Why pain is your evolutionary buddy
The opinions expressed by Oprah.com contributors are strictly their own.


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