The Reservoir of Pain

Everybody suffers. Each of us has a reservoir of suffering that is continually replenished by the storms of life. This can seem like a cliche, but it does, like many cliches, contain a kernel of truth.

Without much effort, we can see that trauma, in its most obvious forms, fills the reservoir quickly. Those people who have traumatic early lives enter the adult world with their reservoirs already full. Childhoods full of violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and the myriad forms of cruelty that are the common currency of human existence leave some young people at a disadvantage when compared to those who have relatively benign beginnings. By the time they enter the adult world, their reservoirs are already overflowing.

And of course, traumas don’t stop coming. Some are huge—like bereavement, relationship endings, physical injury and disease. Then there are the daily, ‘drip by drip’ additions to the reservoir. The stresses and struggles of daily life each contribute their little cupful. It’s no wonder that people will sometimes refer to themselves as ‘drowning’ or ’going under’.

The reservoir fills quickly, and empties slowly, if it empties at all. Personally, I don’t believe it ever empties completely.

It’s a commonplace that ‘time heals all wounds’ but time is a slow healer, and it often leaves the job unfinished, and the fact is that life continues to afflict us with new wounds, so as the reservoir is emptying at one end, life is adding more toxic sludge at the other.

What do we do then, to deal with this? Learn to float or swim, perhaps, or better yet, build a boat. This last is where therapy can help. Therapy can equip you with some planks, some sails, a rudder, a compass…the rest is down to you.

Chris Meredith Psychotherapy

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