The Secret of the Two Types of Pain

Dr. John Townsend

November 5, 2017

Pain, or discomfort, is a normal part of life. For example, it’s painful and uncomfortable to deal with:

  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Family issues
  • Professional conflicts, including stress and miscommunications
  • The demands of everyday life
  • Grief

The list goes on. But, those who have discovered the secret of understanding and dealing with the two types of pain are more likely to be successful.

Things will go much smoother once you are able to deal with discomfort.

I talk about these ideas for leaders in my book, “The Entitlement Cure:”

Symptom Pain: A challenge must be addressed, which makes you uncomfortable. It is a symptom with a cause underneath it, just the way a fever is the symptom of an infection, and the way a lit-up oil gauge is the symptom of an engine problem. The function of symptom pain is simply to let you know it’s time to figure out what’s really going on. The items I referenced above are symptoms. They bother us and take our attention, but they are driven by something deeper. When you feel something wrong in your gut, you can then transition that feeling to the second kind of pain, ‘success pain’.

Success Pain: Success pain is discomfort from doing whatever it takes to root out the cause of the symptom to break down what is really going on? It is uncomfortable to take antibiotics, take time off from work when they need you at the office, or to modify your food intake and activities. But, that resolves the fever. It is uncomfortable to take your car to the mechanic, get a rental for the day, and pay for the cost of repairing the engine. But, that is the only way to get your car fixed.

It is painful to do the work to figure out what the real root of the problem is. It is also uncomfortable and takes significant energy to then figure out what’s happening. However, that sort of investment will pay off in time.


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