The other kind of emotional pain: The ‘pain of truth’

While the pain of childbirth with a mother’s first child is considered to be one of the most severe pain levels a human can experience, surprisingly few women are traumatised by it. This is because they understand what the pain is and because it comes with enormous meaning – creating life.

Today I was working with one of my patients (let’s call her Sophia – Greek for ‘Wisdom’) who was sexually abused by her father. We were talking about telling her brother who was abusing drugs and alcohol and had said to his sister that he too thought he had been molested. Sophia had actually been present when he had been abused. Sophia’s fear was that the truth would bring her brother undone. She did not want to cause him emotional pain by revealing the truth of who had abused her (he only knew ‘someone’ had).

Sophia initially came to me with feelings of depression, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem and was drinking too much. At that stage she had unclear memories of having been sexually abused as a young child. From our current vantage point, I asked Sophia about which pain was worse – the pain she had when she knew something ‘bad’ had happened in her past – but did not understand it, or the pain she had now as she was processing the abuse in full, distressing colour. Sophia had been doing it particularly tough in recent sessions as she was doing EMDR and was in the thick of recalling the detail and working through her abuse experiences. Despite the disturbing memories she was working on, Sophia did not hesitate, “I would rather have the pain of the truth, because from here I can grow and heal. I can see a way forward. The other pain was slowly destroying me and God knows where it was going to end up.”

“Which pain would you rather your brother had?” I asked gently.

“The pain of truth,” Sophia responded – again without hesitation.

The way in which the truth sets you free is by opening a pathway forward into personal growth. Without knowing, or confronting, the truth we are caught in a loop that slowly but surely spirals downwards. The pain of truth, is such a very, very different pain.