Embracing Pain: A Journey of Growth and Healing in Mental Health

Published on March 6, 2022

Written by Rachel McCrickard

Our CEO and Co-founder, Rachel McCrickard, writes about her learnings and reflections in our weekly newsletter, Mondays with Motivo. Sign up below to receive this unique and thoughtful newsletter directly to your email inbox.

Last week, I shared a link to this TED Talk with Dr. LaTonya Summers in the resources section of Mondays with Motivo.

Did you have a chance to watch it? In case you missed it, I wanted to share it again because I can’t stop thinking about it!

The eight-minute TED Talk is packed with incredible wisdom, insight, and vulnerability. Here it is again in case you want to listen to it as I share my reflections.

During the TED Talk, Dr. Summers tells the story of when she worked on a psychiatric unit as a mental health therapist. She was preparing to lead a psycho-educational session with a group of severely depressed and suicidal adults. However, when she saw the downcast faces of the group members, she put her clipboards and handouts away and decided to take a different approach.

She said to them, “You’re not here, depressed and suicidal, because you don’t know how to be happy. You’re here, depressed and suicidal because you don’t know how to hurt. Today, I want to teach you how to hurt.”

Oh my goodness, friends, when I heard Dr. Summers say those words, I stopped and recited them to myself over and over.  “Today, I want to teach you how to hurt.” 

Dr. Summers shares how, like her clients, she has also struggled with pain avoidance throughout her life – and her words deeply resonated with me.

Over the last few years, I’ve had some deep experience with the kind of pain that Dr. Summers refers to. It’s been a journey to learn how to sit with that pain and feel it, rather than self-medicating through work, isolation, or “keeping busy” – which are my main ways of avoiding pain.

Dr. Summers also offers the hope-filled message that learning how to feel pain is often key to unlocking one’s greatness. Learning this lesson, she shares, has helped her become more brilliant, intuitive, and emboldened to take risks. 💙

Dr. Summers’ words inspire me to keep doing my own work of learning how to feel pain and to also remember the important role we, as therapists, can play in helping others learn how to do the same.

Did Dr. Summers’ words resonate with you? I’d love to hear your reflections if you have anything you’d like to share.

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