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Primary pain vs. Secondary pain

My daughter was scootering around outside, fell off the scooter, and skinned her knee.

There were the expected tears, the wiping off of gravel and blood, and the placing of the bandaid over the wound.

And then came the questions, “Mommy, why am I so clumsy? I always fall. I should have worn knee pads. I’m not good on the scooter … ”

My heart immediately ached for her. It’s enough to skin your knee and feel the pain, but all the questioning and self-doubt on top of it only made the pain worse.

There’s primary pain: what you’re actually dealing with or going through. The facts. (Examples: distance in a relationship, the loss of a loved one, a dashed dream, a bad diagnosis).

And then there’s secondary pain: all the pain we layer on, on top of what we’re already going through. (Examples: Why me? I’m so dumb. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m a failure. I’m no good. I’ll never get through this. This is useless.)

The greater pain is the secondary pain. I like to think of the primary pain as the facts and the secondary pain as the drama.

If you take away the drama, you can get to work on dealing with the reality of your situation, and not the stifling layers.

Where are you adding secondary pain into your life, layered onto primary pain? What change are you going to make today?


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