Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sharing the Pain

I love the TV show, "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman." It is a great family show about a woman doctor, Michaela Quinn, who moves from Boston to the 'wilds' of Colorado in the 1860s. She starts her medical practice, becomes a mother to 3 orphaned children, champions many good causes, and meets and falls in love with Byron Sully ("Sully").

Dr. Mike, as she is called, and Sully eventually get married.

One of the funniest 'woman giving birth' scenes I've ever watched is in this show. There is a scene where Dr. Mike, with only Sully attending her, gives birth to their daughter "Katie" in the woods. The couple is a bit frightened at the unexpected prospect of delivering their daughter alone in the wilderness, but 'buck up' under the pressure and rise to the occasion.

At one moment, during a break between contractions, Michaela is gently touching Sully's face, encouraging him through his fears about delivering their baby. Suddenly she is gripped in the pain of another contraction, and her gentle stroking turns into a death grip on Sully's cheeks! She is screaming as she pulls his cheeks outward. The resulting image is hilarious, but obviously painful! He tries to 'take it' in solidarity with his wife, but he's obviously wishing it would stop!

As amusing as this scene is (and it IS funny) it made me think about a not-so-amusing tendency in human nature. That being, that when someone is in pain, especially if they perceive that they have been hurt by another person, there is often an impulse to hurt back. "You hurt me... I'll hurt you." It's also known as revenge. Most people might deny that they believe in revenge, but if their actions are really looked at, they do their best to make the other person feel some pain.

It's not an easy path to take the high road and not stoop to that level. It takes a lot of self discipline and maturity to walk away from someone who has hurt you, with dignity and your head held high. There is no better feeling in the world than doing so! Yet, so many people don't take that road. It's easier to give in to the emotions... to the impulses and lash out. Often, we regret these actions after the fact, but then it is too late.

Lots of spiritual traditions teach about not seeking revenge, and taking a higher path, even when you've been wronged by another person. There is a reason for that. It is both a spiritual practice (to seek to take this path) AND it is a sign of spiritual maturity when we can do it. It is not an easy undertaking. A lot of time the feelings can rage on the inside, but the key is to learn to hold the internal reaction, and still make a good outward choice. Eventually those feelings dissipate, but an action, taken in anger and haste, cannot be retracted. It can leave us feeling embarrassed, humiliated, and more often than not, it makes us look worse than the person who did the original act that provoked us.

We shouldn't be doormats for other people, but there are dignified and assertive ways to deal with people who have hurt us. Seeking to walk that path is like taking a super hard class. It's difficult to do... but as we 'master' this practice we feel a sense of accomplishment that simply can't come from anywhere else!

Take the high road!