5 Ways People Avoid Dealing with Pain (and what to do about it)

Everyone has a shell. Some protective mechanisms to keep them out of pain.

And, when you begin a conversation around new and better possibilities for people, it brings them face-to-face with their current reality.  It brings them face-to-face with the quality of life that they are currently settling for.  Most people know that more is possible — which makes it all the more painful to look at the level they have decided to live at.

This will bring up pain for people.

So, it’s important to realize the mechanisms that people have for dealing with pain.  In fact, these mechanisms are probably what caused them to settle in the first place.  Basically, there are…

5 Ways People Avoid Dealing with Pain:

1.    Denial: People try to pretend that it’s not there.  They pretend that it doesn’t hurt.  It’s like the old Aesop’s fable about the Fox trying to get the grapes.  He tries to trick the crow into dropping them but, when unsuccessful, walks away saying, “I didn’t want those grapes anyway.” I have heard people describe denial by using it as an acronym for Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying.
People will go to amazing lengths to pretend they don’t have a problem.  Whether it’s as extreme as alcoholism, the state of their physical health or the state of their finances.  People seem to believe that if they don’t look at the problem it will simply go away.  Denial is the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.
2.    Sedatives and Numbing Out: They use sedatives of “food”, alcohol, drugs etc. to lower their level of pain.  The use of any of these once a while, isn’t the issue.  The issue is that people use these as a consistent pattern.  But perhaps the worst drug of all is when people| tell themselves “it’s okay”.  When people have attempted to create a result again and again and failed – they tend to give up.
When people try to handle their finances in countless ways and can’t seem to get it together they will either step up and take another cut the ball or they will step down and deal with their pain by saying, “it’s okay.  It’s not really that bad.”

They will reinforce this by hanging around with a peer group that has equally low expectations of life.  This peer group will say things like, “Hey, don’t be so hard in yourself.  Quit working so hard.  Relax once a while.”  But the peer group is not really saying these things out of any sense of true caring for the person the because they don’t want to look at the fact that they are also in pain.

3.    Rationalize And Tell Themselves Stories: you can hear a rationalization a million miles away.  They almost always start with the words “Well it’s not like I…” or “At least I  . . .” (followed by the one strong standard they have).

They’ll say things like, “Sure I smoke once in awhile, but it’s not like I’m one of those people who smokes three packs a day.”  Or when looking at their finances, they’ll say, “Sure my finances are a mess but it’s not like I’m $100,000 in debt on credit cards.”  Or they’ll look at their romantic relationships and say, “Sure, it’s not the most fulfilling relationship in the world but it’s not like we’re fighting all the time and hate each other.”

The easiest way to rationalize lowering our standards is to compare ourselves with people who have even lower standards.

4.    Justify: They give their reasons:  “I mean I should do this but…” in whatever comes after that “but” is their “excuse” for not taking action.  So, at least they acknowledge that there is a problem, but the way they choose to deal with it is to prove to other people, and themselves, why they can’t do anything about it.

5.    They Use Softeners: They say, “I’m big boned…” vs. “I’m fat”.  They say, “I’m having a few problems with my finances.”  As opposed to, “My personal finances are a disaster.”  People will use the language that softens the emotional impact — and so they will never ever connect with the pain that could actually drive them to create the change they want in their lives.  Until people face, and ultimately embrace, the pain they are currently experiencing they will never have the energy or motivation to create the level of change they want.

Your job is to get them back to the truth. Your job is to “tell it like it is” and help them get honest with themselves.  Of course, it’s important that you do this skillfully and elegantly but you must also do it powerfully.

For example, most business owners are abysmal at marketing.  Their efforts are scattered, reactive and ineffective.  But they don’t realize it.  If I simply tell them “your marketing sucks” they may or may not believe it.  I have had to – over the years – create more elegant and compelling ways to help them “get it”.  I have spent considerable effort creating self diagnostic tests and, in fact, an entire introductory evening based on them doing a marketing “self assessment”.  There is an art to this that, as you master it, will make you rich and your clients much, much happier.

You’ve got to be there to say “Look, more is possible.”  And then show them why it’s possible.  Reawaken hope.  Remember, show don’t tell.  Show them how it could be better in their life, in their home, with their financial realities.  Your job is to help paint the “sufficiency gap”.

In essence you say, “You’re here.  Here is wonderful, beautiful and enough.  It’s perfect.  Over there is a higher possibility.  Something that would expand, add to and deepen the current level of richness in your life.  I can help you get there.  You’re an acorn – acorns are great and I see within you an oak.  Which would you like to be?

Your role is to help them feel powerful in closing that gap by:

1.    Affirming the Current Sufficiency – you don’t want them to feel stupid or foolish for where they are or what they’ve done.  You want to feel good and clear.  You don’t want them to feel poor and impoverished in their current state – you want them to feel wealthy and grateful. Why?

People don’t spend money – or take risks – when they feel poor.

You don’t want them to be caught up in a drama about their suffering but rather their sufficiency.  Most people never even start on a dream because they think, “I’m not good enough.  I don’t have enough time or money or friends, etc.”  Your job is to affirm that they actually have the perfect amount – the exact right amount.

2.    Inviting them to imagine a greater possibility.

3.    Clearly pointing out the gap between their sufficiency and their vision.  Help them get honest and inspired.

4.    Showing how it could be filled, step by step, with your help.  Many people avoid making a big decision because they don’t want to appear foolish.  They need to really “get” that doing business with you will “feel good” and meet their deepest emotional needs.

People are always looking for a better, simpler, easier way to get the results they’re after.

An important shift to make is from a transactional relationship to a transformational relationship in which you are both influenced by each other.

If you are truly a trusted advisor – if you’re truly an expert not only in your product/service but in your industry – then you know much more about it than your client don’t you?  So, you often have a much greater and clearer sense of what is possible than they do.

Sometimes, it’s so much easier to see what’s possible for people from the outside.  We’ve all had times in our lives, when all of our friends could see what the problem was, but we simply couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  When you’re not involved in the problem emotionally, the solution and resolution of that problem is often much easier to see.

And, sometimes, people simply don’t even know about the existence of certain options.  Imagine that you have been going to certain restaurant regularly for the past 10 years.  Every day you get there, you open up the menu and you order the food on.  It’s a bit of a greasy spoon, and all they really have is burgers and fries.  But, it’s really close to where you work and it’s cheap.  Then one day, you’re going to the bathroom, but you accidentally walk into the kitchen.  And you are stunned with what you see.  You see fruit, pastas, the most incredible salads you’ve ever seen, curries and rice dishes… you’re overwhelmed.

And you realize the only reason you never received that kind of food is you didn’t ask.  But the reason you didn’t ask was because it was never on the menu.  People will only order what they see on the menu.  If you go to a restaurant and all they sell is burgers — you’re not going to ask for a fruit salad.  Most people in their own lives, have a certain menu that they are looking at day after day.  Your job is to walk them into the kitchen and show them that so much more is available.

Many people actually, secretly have much larger dreams and visions but relegate them to the dark and dusty catacombs of their mind feeling that either it’s not possible or they aren’t worthy.  They look at their goals and think “Why me? I’m not worthy of that level of success.”  Your job is to look at them and know their inherent and invaluable worth and ask not “are you sure you’re worthy of these goals?” but “Are you sure those goals are worthy of you?


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