In Flames “Disconnected” and Why Feeling Pain Is Better Than Not Feeling at All

Sometimes life can feel painful.  You feel bad, and you think you’d rather feel nothing at all than to feel this pain.

What we feel in reaction to life’s events is a matter of our own interpretation — but few of us train our minds enough to be truly unflappable.  Once feelings are generated, you have to feel them before you can flush them out of your system.

Sometimes the feelings are so strong that your system gets overwhelmed.  It shuts down, puts the unprocessed feelings away, to process later.  That feeling never goes away unfelt though.  If you’re not feeling them, then they remain inside you, tucked away in a corner of your psyche or in a body part.  The longer they sit there, the more firmly lodged they become, festering and stewing, possibly becoming into something worse.

Author Steven Pressfield writes in the book The War of Art that there is this force he calls Resistance.  It’s a force that pushes you against doing anything important, productive or meaningful — from exercises to cleaning to pursuing your dreams.  The bigger their significance/value, the bigger the Resistance.  I can tell you that I battle this everyday myself — every post I make on this web site, every song I release, every email I send to my mailing list, is my victory against Resistance.  I believe it’s possible to get in the habit of winning against Resistance, but I think we still resonate too strongly with the idea of life being a battle and struggle.  The pursuit of dreams brings up all kinds of fears — and we stop in our track, because we don’t want to feel those fears, let alone overcome them.

“You receive what you give,” sings Anders Fridden in Swedish death metal heavyweight In Flames.  This second song from the album A Sense of Purpose really resonates with me, because it describes the place where I find myself in more often than I care to admit — letting Resistance beat me, running away, choosing to feel numb instead of my fear.  Except I can’t really run away, you can’t.  I can distract myself momentarily, but that oppressing, heavy feeling returns soon thereafter.

Take exercising, for example.  I exercise regularly but it’s a habit that’s taken years to build up.  I start out my day knowing I should exercise, but don’t really want to.  It takes time and energy, which are both in limited supply.  Plus, if I really want to make improvements in my fitness I need to challenge myself — and that takes a lot of mental resolve.  My mind wants to be lazy and wishes if I didn’t have to spend that energy.

Many of us spend years running away from our Resistance.  I once met a woman who called herself a writer but she never shared her writing with anyone.  You have to remember that Resistance is strongest where there is the biggest potential.  You receive what you give.  If you keep running away, what you get out of life in return also diminishes.

The tough part is that even when you finally beat Resistance and start doing something meaningful or valuable, initially it may not feel that great.  Exercising when you’re out of shape can be a sore and clumsy experience.  Your writing may not be well-received.  You crawl out of your numbness, looking for a warm welcome, but what you may feel instead is more Resistance, and proofs that Resistance was right.

That’s where you have to keep the faith, though.  Sitting in your numbness is the only sure way to destroy your life.  Crawling forward may be painful at first but it does get better.  Momentary pain leads to a sense of pride and resilience.  Your feeling pain means that you’re not running away, and that you’re brave enough to face it.  It sure doesn’t feel good, but it is better than feeling nothing, and ending up in total defeat.

“I feel like shit
But at least I feel something”