What The Princess Bride Nailed About Mental Health and Pain

Pain: Navigating One of the Bigger Fire Swamp’s of Life

Arguably the greatest movie of the 80s, The Princess Bride is packed full of amazing quotes.
“Have fun storming the castle!”
“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togeva…”
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…” Okay, I’ll stop myself before I really get going on the quotes. If you somehow have missed seeing this movie, please check it out. Ah-mazing.
The quote that I want to call your attention to comes when Princess Buttercup accuses the Dread Pirate Roberts (aka Wesley) of mocking her pain.
He responds, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
It’s remarkable how much of our modern lives and businesses are built around avoiding or eliminating pain. From avoiding the pain of inconvenience, to avoiding physical pain, we do everything possible to cut pain out of our lives.
Run from it as we may, pain is an inevitable part of life. Pain can make us better. Or bitter.

The Cost of Running from Pain in Your Life

First, a disclaimer: Embracing pain for no reason is stupid and unhealthy. Period.
Okay, disclaimer aside, here are the costs of avoiding pain in your life.

1. Your growth as a person is hindered.

Muscles grow when they are put under stress. Our minds sharpen when we challenge them. Our character is forged by experiencing duress.
Trust me, I wish it were different. I would like to avoid pain as much as the next person. But we stagnant without tasting it.

2. You may be avoiding what is most important to you.

You want to go back to college and complete your degree. You are building the courage to ask out that person you’re interested in. You want to get back into shape.
The goals that matter to you involve facing pain or potential pain. It’s how life works.

3. Your fear of pain is giving it more power.

Most of my work focuses on helping people who are overwhelmed by anxiety or loss & grief. Both anxiety and despair from loss are natural human emotions, like joy and peace. But when we run from anxiety and grief, we give them immense power over our lives.
By trying to control your anxiety or grief instead of working through it, you are giving it control over you.
The better path forward is facing our pain so we can do what matters most to us. So we can love our family and friends deeply.
How do we know what pain is worth facing in our lives? Especially when most people around us avoid pain at all costs?
Get clarity on what matters most to you. It’s knowing your values.
I’m talking about values from an ACT perspective, which I have written about how values can empower you previously here.
Values are our internal compass, which points towards our true north. I’ll share my top values to give you an example. In my relationships, I value being wholehearted. I want to love my family and friends wholeheartedly. In my work, I want to have a compassionate impact on others. And in my life, I want to pursue growth as a person. I want to grow physically, psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
Honoring those three core values can be fun, and it can be painful at times. 

Why Facing Pain Is Worth It

1. You learn to be more psychologically flexible.

Learning to face pain will help you to better navigate your thoughts and emotions. You can respond by doing what matters to you, rather than your inner world controlling you.

2. Your relationships grow stronger.

When you get close to someone, conflicts will arise. Learning to face discomfort and work through it will lead to better relationships.

3. You become more resilient.

Adversity doesn’t have to crush you. Learning to face it and bounce back are key characteristics of leaders.

4. Your emotional intelligence improves.

Learning to engage our positive and negative emotions is key to emotional intelligence.

5. Pain grows your appreciation of life.

Joy wouldn’t feel so sweet if we never tasted sorrow. Fleeting moments of happiness are more inspiring if we have felt the weight of dismay. The contrast of painful emotions gives uplifting emotions greater potency in our hearts.

6. Pain drives you to take action.

The things we want most in life usually include obstacles, that’s in part what makes them worthwhile. If we are completely conflict avoidant, then it will be impossible to achieve what we want in this life.
Does the concept of facing pain feel overwhelming to you? You don’t have to do it alone. You can read a book like The Happiness Trap with a friend. Or if you live in Ohio, as a clinical counselor, I can help. My office is conveniently located in northern Columbus. Reach out to me at Oak Harbor Counseling Services, or email me at [email protected].
Think this could help someone else out? Feel free to share:
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Brent Flory

Brent is a licensed professional counselor in Columbus, Ohio. He works with adults and adolescents, and specializes in helping people who are struggling with anxiety, loss & grief, and burnout.
In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his family, playing basketball, and eating too much ice cream.

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