Dr. Chip Dodd - COURAGE: The gift of hurt

On so many levels, the life of a single parent can be heartbreaking, over and over again. After experiencing repeated hurts, it can be hard to believe that something good will come. Our focus this month is on courage and this week, on the podcast, Dr. Chip Dodd joins Robert and Kimberley to talk about having the courage to find the gift of hurt. That may sound odd but Dr. Dodd shares his insight that each of our emotions can bring us gifts when we acknowledge them, honor them, and let them lead us to a place of wisdom and understanding. So today our focus is having the courage to find the gifts of hurt.

As a single parent, the struggle can be so real. We do not always struggle with our ex-spouse. It can be having to watch our kids act out or hurt too and it breaks our hearts. Robert shares, “I have gone through years of watching things, beyond my control, affect my daughters and me. It's so hard in those moments to believe that good will come.” And, it can be hard to believe that we can have courage. We have all had moments of deep hurt and feeling wounded. It is hard to believe that in some way we can come out of that and reflect courage especially when we feel hurt, alone, and anything but courageous.

Kimberley shares that she experienced all of those feelings as a solo parent especially in the beginning. She was very hurt but it hurt even more watching her kids struggle. Even now, her kids who are young adults are trying to figure out a relationship with a dad that hasn’t been there and  it’s so hard to watch them going through this. She is seeing them have the courage to speak up in ways she didn’t and she is amazed at their courage while it also hurts to see them walking through hurt and trying to deal with it.

Robert agrees that as a dad it is harder to watch our kids go through tough stuff or act out because we want to fix it and we can’t. We often feel anything but courageous.

Fortunately, we have our good friend and best-selling author back with us to help us understand courage. Get this. We are going to understand courage as a gift of hurt!

Dr. Chip Dodd is the best-selling author of many books including one which serves as a foundational tool for many of the things we do here at Solo Parent Society, called “The Voice of the Heart.”  For over 30 years, Chip has poured his heart and experience in education into serving others. He is a counselor, mentor, speaker, author, a friend of ours, and he is committed to helping people know themselves better by living fully in relationship with each other and, ultimately, with God.  

So much fruit has come from Dr. Dodd’s work. In his book “The Voice of the Heart”, he shares that courage is the “gift of hurt” and, in order for each of us to reach that gift, we have to be willing to hurt. Dr. Dodd admits that finding the gift of hurt starts out very counter-intuitive.  

He shares that we all want things in life. We are people who desire things. We look at life almost like a rainbow. “We have the idea that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and we want to go there. We want the pot of gold. Whether we like it or not, we are born seekers, wanters, desires. We are attracted to relationships. We are attracted to goals. We are attracted to belonging and mattering. We are attracted to wanting to accomplish.” With all of those wants and desires, we find ourselves living in a very real world where we don’t bounce around from cloud to cloud. “We live on terrafirma,” Dr. Dodd continues, “We live on earth where we really fall down and it hurts. And if you climb tall mountains, you fall further than if you stay on flat ground. So that entails risk. When you are attracted to or desire something, we are going to take a risk. Risks mean inevitably that we are going to bump into a “No, get away, not yet” or find ourselves waiting or even have to face the risk of hearing a yes!  
Like,  “Yes, I want to hire you. Yes, I want be apart, or Yes, I want to be with you.” Even in a yes, there is risk. And this is where courage comes in.

Dr. Dodd shares, “The definition of courage is a willingness to be in pain for something that matters more than my own comfort, more than my own safety. Having courage means being willing to be hurt for something that I am attracted to, desire, or that I am after. Hurt also implies that I am a creature who is capable of being vulnerable. Vulnerability means being open to hurt.”

When we move toward something we are attracted to, desire, and want, that is called courage, because it demonstrates a willingness to be in pain. At the same time, as we move toward something, we are officially vulnerable because to feel it, touch it, to have it and to experience it, means that we “don’t wear armour”. Moving toward things we want to experience, says, “ I can be touched. I can see. I can be seen”, and “We are connecting, seeking creatures. We hunger to belong and matter with each other. And, that means vulnerability”, says Dodd.

So we are in a conflict by birth. The moment we start to desire, be attracted to, or hunger for something, we are going to reach toward it. And, shares Dodd, there are times we will reach for what we want and need in a place “that is tragic” [this world] and we are going to get hurt. We are going to have pain. “So pain and hurt are the price we pay for love - for desire - for attraction.” We have to recognize, though, that there is a difference between hurt and harm.  

Robert shares that one of the things he loves about Dr. Dodd’s work is that throughout The Voice of the Heart, readers are continually being drawn into the process of looking at each emotion, including hurt, to find both the impairment and the benefit of experiencing it. “Often we run from hurt especially if we have been hurt before. We do not want to go there again”, but if we let ourselves experience it, we discover there is a gift in the process. That gift isn’t like a present we give to our kids. It’s a place we arrive at after letting ourselves feel the pain of hurt and realizing we have the courage to risk again, maybe with greater wisdom and insight, to reach out to have our needs met with safe people. Hurt can lead us to this courage.  

But, who wants to be hurt? Dr. Dodd shares that we often plan our lives around “avoiding the most pain as possible”. And, as single parents who have been hurt, we want to avoid pain too.
But what happens if we ignore our hurt and don’t deal with it?  

Dr. Dodd shares that when we have been hurt, we withdraw. We try to withhold our attraction, our desires, and our needs to make sure something painful doesn’t happen again. And, he says, “Believe it or not, that is not a bad thing. That is a wise thing.” This is preventive and self  protective. “We are learning something.”  We are learning about hurt. “Hurt is a feeling we have whenever we experience the woundings of life.” Hurt tells us we’ve experienced a wound so we can run from it as needed and we can learn from it. That is a key difference.

 “Learning from it starts with ownership of the experience.” This means acknowledging “I am in pain”. Imagine the pain as a deep cut on your leg that is behind you, on your hamstring, somewhere you can’t see clearly. You need someone to help see it and assess how bad it is.  The pain tells you that you need to go to someone who understands what it is like to be in pain so they can help you and direct you because they know where they went with theirs. So, Dr. Dodd shares, “Hurt people need to go to people who know what hurt is.” When we are hurting, we want to reach out to those who will acknowledge our pain. “Don't go to the experts, go to the humans who are walking the walk”, he continues. Go to people who have been hurt, have gotten help, and can point you to help too.

Just like when we receive a deep wound to our flesh, we need attention when we are hurt. In terms of the medical world, we have to go to those who know and understand the kind of wound we have. They help us get disinfected, stitched up, checked out, and put into rehabilitation. After a wound like that we need to practice using that muscle again until we build up strength again.  

As you go through the process of healing, you are then better able to return to living life or return to being in the battle. “In war, they send experts of war into battle with the non-experts. In other words, they send the colonel and the majors who are war experienced to take the young people into war”, says Dodd. We need those who have been there before, those that “ have tremendous courage because they know hurt better than the young people who can pretend that it may not happen. They know how to be in it.” They have the ability to go back into the fray even in the face of possible hurt.

And this is what it means to live with our normal human attraction, desire, hunger and thirst for connection, continues Dr. Dodd. “We can’t get away from it. We can numb it or anesthetize it, withdraw from it. But then we are not alive.” We are made to “eat and drink” relationship. We are made to develop courage to go back toward connection, wiser than we were before with more experiences. Yes, we will be more watchful. But we will also be more helpful and more attuned ot ohers than you were before.

 Entering back into relationship after being hurt means you are less naive, more experienced, and now you are really showing courage. Courage is “a willingness to be in pain for something that matters more than the pain” which is also what it looks like to live fully and love deeply. Finding the gift of courage after being hurt means sharing the benefit of what you have gained as you walked through it.
Dr. Dodd says we’ve all heard that “If you get thrown off a horse, get back on” and there is truth in that. But, he says, in that phrase “a big chunk” of reality “gets “skipped. When you get thrown from a horse, it hurts, it’s really scary. Dreams get exploded. You didn’t believe it would happen to you and it did. Reality hits you hard. And as human beings, we experience the shock of hurt and pain.

And this is how life happens to us and to others too. We find ourselves facing truths like, “I am sad, I am hurt. I am lonely. I am scared.” And we find ourselves having to grieve and process the pain when someone reaches out and says, “Do you want to ride again?”  When we can respond by saying, “Well, I don’t want to hurt like that again but I do want to ride again.” THAT is courage, says Dr. Dodd. Courage is not just getting back on. It is getting back on the horse knowing you were hurt, knowing there is risk, and knowing you can face the possibility of hurt again. Just getting back on without finding that gift from hurt means “you learn nothing, you gain nothing about living”.

As we live, we will find ourselves struggling with God and struggling with others. There will be days and times we don’t want to have to go back and remember. “Everyone who knows God well has started out with things they wish never had happened. That is a big sentence”, Dodd shares. But we all have times we regret, that we wish we could have prevented. But we couldn't and didn’t stop them. Instead, we experienced pain and from that pain we experienced learning.   Instead of telling ourselves, “if you get thrown from a horse, get back on” or some other mantra, we can take the risk of experiencing God as someone who is actually in a relationship with us and who cares about our pain and our healing and who will guide us through it.  God doesn’t just walk up and tell us to “get over it” and “get back on the horse”. He is with us in the pain and in the healing and in the times we decide to risk being hurt again.

What about that phrase we hear all the time, “Hurt people hurt people.” Are those hurt people who don’t sit in the hurt and who don’t learn from it?

Dr. Dodd shares that hurt people that won't acknowledge their hurt walk up and tell you, “It can’t hurt that much. Get back on the horse.” But what we really need are people to acknowledge the hurt instead of putting the “should'' on us. When we tell someone to just get back on the horse we are saying, “you shouldn’t feel that way”. When we get hurt we need to take a time out to acknowledge that it is there. We need to seek wise counsel. In other words, go to people who have walked the path of hurt and those who we see have found courage to keep living fully. Go to those who can offer something from what they have gained.

As important as acknowledging your pain is working through it and then taking the risk to live fully gain.

In the battle field of living, we have to have a home base.  We need a place where we can be “safe” before we go out again, where we can “touch home base with each other”, says Dodd.  
So, who do you have in your life that is your champion? Who is in your corner? A champion means somebody who advocates for somebody, who is attempting to champion something. Champions can help us re-enter life fully by being part of our “home base”.

We can be champions for our children. When they experience pain, we can provide that safe place for them to acknowledge it, learn from it, and risk again because they have a home base to come back to when they need it. We can teach them what we have learned:  That, if you are going to live a life of love, there will be hurt. “Hurt is a part of everything. Hurt is even a part of joy”, shares Dr. Dodd. It takes courage to love. But the opposite is worse - apathy, resentment , bitterness, depression, high anxiety. All of those are the consequences of running away from our hearts.

Can we sit in our hurt too long? How do we get to the courage?

Dr Dodd says we can sit in our hurt too long. “ We are made to go out. We are made to create. We are made for attraction.” He shares what Marianne Diamond discovered about neuroplasticity, that change is possible in the brain. She said we grow through:
See new things. Be curious.
Taking risk. Taking on new challenges.

We need each of these to grow because it’s part of how we are created. We need to nourish ourselves, to exercise and practice new skills, we need to live with a sense of wonder and be willing to risk again. Ultimately, we need to love again.

If we stay in our pain too long, it will eventually overwhelm you. Even if we numb it and anesthetize it, you can’t stop it. We must step into growth again. But it takes time. We don’t find courage in a day. We need the support of others who have gone before us and who know the experience of hurt and have found courage to face life again.

Robert shares that one of the difficult things for single parents is when our kids start experiencing hurt and we need to sit with them in it. We have seen in Solo Parent Society that there is a beautiful cycle of support when parents newer to the journey connect with others who have been there before. We find ourselves needing to employ courage in new unknowns with things that are out of our control.

Dr. Dodd says this is what is beautiful about our single parent participants. They have the courage to show up, acknowledge their own pain, to risk again and become willing to be there for others on the journey.

There are so many elements to finding courage after being hurt. And we need a home base to deal with them. Solo Parent Society can be that home base for single parents especially as we face the complexities of what our kids are going through especially after divorce or not having a two parent family. We don’t always know how to help them.

Dr. Dodd shares that this is how society is different now. So many of us are recovering from hurts that other generations didn’t experience or didn’t process through in healthy ways. Hurt is part of our common language as people. So many of us are products of life’s hurts in one way or the other. We can’t escape it whether we are “solo parenting, recovering alcoholics, people who have been bankrupt, people who have lost a limb, people who have seen war…We can either be people who acknowledge the experience of pain or who deny it.”

Acknowledging the experience of pain is called a cultivating experience so we can cultivate relationships with each other. That shared experience can keep us apart or bring us together like you see in Solo Parent Society. We can come together as those who know what pain is and had to learn how to find courage in the face of difficulties. Dodd says, “I really believe that our society is going to be raised to new life through recovering people. It is recovering people who have...hungered and found an empty bowl. [They have] felt attraction and had a door slammed in their face, yet have not remained victims. In spite of the pain, they continue to say “I feel” and allow their emotions to help them process their hurt so they can find the gift of hurt:  courage. These are the people who will help resurrect our society and bring hurting broken people back to life. This kind of recovery teaches us to use our feelings to connect to what we want and need and then go beyond how we feel, says Dr. Dodd. “It is not about staying stuck in them. A hurt is a tool that lets you reach toward healing. Sadness is a tool that lets you reach toward acceptance.”  

And we can only do this, by acknowledging that falling off the horse hurts. “You're not a baby for sitting there because you are out of breath or you broke your ankle”, says Dodd. Being willing to experience the pain and do the work of recovery is where we find courage. This is the gift of hurt.

For even more insights from Dr. Chip Dodd, listen to this episode in full along with others featuring him as our resident expert on mental and spiritual health as he shares wisdom learned from his decades of practice as a therapist, speaker, author, and fellow sojourner on the road of life.

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