Hurt vs. Harm in Personal Growth

Severe and chronic pain can be unbearable, dehumanizing, and can seem to steal one’s life force. The tenacity of individuals with chronic pain who strive for some quality of life, continue to go to work, and care for their loved ones, is truly admirable.

One concept that has stuck with me is the that of “harm” versus “hurt.” When working through physical goals, individuals with chronic pain are sometimes encouraged to continue with suggested exercises despite “hurt” because the exercises are meant to strengthen their bodies and over time decrease the “hurt” or pain. And it is made clear that this different from “harm.” Harm is that which causes further or additional injury.

Hurt versus harm is helpful in other areas as well. As a yoga teacher, I might invite participants to notice discomfort and be with the discomfort as long as it is not creating injury. As a therapist, I invite clients to move into, sit in, or move through emotions or thoughts that “hurt” or are uncomfortable with the intention of this being healing.

Wherever you feel “hurt” or pain in your life, I invite you to notice this discomfort with mindfulness. Would sitting in this discomfort increase your strength or resilience, or is it truly your body telegraphing impending injury? And if your body is telegraphing impending injury, is this from previous experience, or is this true information. As always, it is recommended to explore “hurt” whether physical or emotional, with a trained professional so that you can safely explore “hurt” without experiencing “harm.”