As a Sufi, I had been trained to accept the thorn with the rose, the difficulties with the beauties of life. Hence followed another rule: The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new Self to be born, hardship is necessary.

Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

We have those days when we are down. The loss of a family member, poor exam results, you didn’t get the job you wanted, and many other bad situations. It feels like life likes to punch us in the face.

But when things get better, it can be due to two main forces:

  1. The environment around us changes for the better
  2. We grow, and change for the better.

There’s a limit to how much we can control number one. The most that I can think of is to move to a nearby jungle, away from civilisation, and if that is a good change for you then go for it. But I’d like to focus on number two: giving ourselves the chance to grow.

But hardship is necessary. It’s like exercise, training heavyweights at the gym so that we can get stronger. We train with heavier weights on purpose because we grow that way. Life is the same: It needs to be hard before it gets better.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

It brings up similarities with Kintsugi, specifically the idea of positive disintegration.

What makes it work? Tension.

We need psychological tension to grow in life

The strongest fighters fight the most battles. When they’re not fighting, they’re preparing for the next one.

We try our best to walk away from pain, but life isn’t so easy: pain gravitates towards us naturally.

When pain occurs, we get increased psychological tension. It becomes harder to make decisions because you are under a lot of pain, physically and/or mentally, and thinking can get fuzzy. The pain can come from not knowing what to do or a lack of guidance, so tension increases when we try to create results for ourselves.

But diamonds are born under pressure, and as humans, this is how we grow.

Tension allows us to learn how to withstand pain, teaching us lessons we otherwise could not learn. Constantly training yourself under pressure will prepare you for a painful situation, whether it be a sudden loss or a large shock event. That is the purpose of this blog: to remind ourselves of our pain, gain wisdom from it and build ourselves.

We learn from everything around us. We can control our course, and how we react to the hardships encountered. But pain is inevitable and we must know it. We have to know what we are avoiding, and experience fear in our minds. Once we face and understand these fears, it will reduce the doubts.

Once the psychological tension lowers, we can be reminded of what we are truly capable of doing. That is what pain is: it’s a lesson. It’s time to learn what hurts us, so that we can be stronger.

What combats pain? Love.

Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.

Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love

The concept of love goes beyond affection and romantic gestures to a partner. It starts with Self.

One’s Self must be capable of loving to a certain degree before it can be accepted by others, and in order to learn how to love, we must know what is right and wrong. Hence, the pain. It’s a lesson after all, hence love can only be perfected in pain.

I guess that’s why the feeling becomes more intense once you’ve learned the hardest lessons, obstacles and the like. Once you’re at the peak of your own self love, you will find someone to share that with, and in doing so you will last a long time.

I’ve always believed in the parallel theory: to focus on becoming the best version of myself before finding a partner to share that achievement with. Living on my own terms, living my life – and only then, once I am content with where I am, can I share that with someone who is equally as ambitious in life.

Only when our lives are in parallel, can we justify being together with each other. The best of us together; isn’t that what it means to be alive? To be living on your own terms, without pressure from others? Sharing that satisfaction and self-clarity with someone who understands?

Love is what makes life tick. Without it, we wouldn’t care about ourselves.