Why is it that most of us believe in the paradigm that we need to suffer to progress? This no-pain, no-gain ideology is first coming from the bodybuilding realm, where the common idea is you have to work hard on yourself to build muscles. Why is it that no one (or almost) is challenging this ideology and wondering if and how we can progress without pain and suffering?
Olivier Lafay has made his life a point to challenge this ideology with numerous decisive books, such as "Sybernetics : Musculation stratégique" (Sybernetics: Strategic bodybuilding), alongside a persistent and essential presence on social media sharing and showing another way, a more gentle systemic approach providing care for the whole instead of pain for the parts.
The no-pain, no-gain approach that most men believe in and use at the gym is imprinted in our culture and education, even though it has no scientific or psychological proof.
The apology of no-pain, no-gain shows up everywhere in our culture; it appears as a doctrine sometimes; you got to suffer to progress, you got to hurt yourself to develop yourself. Be a man! I've witnessed this doctrine in bodybuilding, the martial arts world, the business world, and even in spiritual communities. It is so heavily present everywhere in our lives that it becomes invisible to our eyes and hearts. For the longest time, I dedicated myself to psycho-spiritual work. I also was rooted in the belief that I had to suffer if I wanted to grow, rooted in the idea that I had to fight with myself to rise and shine to a point where I was jealous of people who experienced any trauma in their life, because these persons, in this logic of no-pain no-gain, were lucky and possessed a fertile soil for their own growth until I discovered a gentle way, more compassionate, gentle, kind and more human.
Olivier Lafay explains how this ideology, preached by the dominant in a culture based on domination more than cooperation, is rooted in our childhood traumas. As Dr Gabor Mate says, "trauma is not what happened to us; trauma is how we responded to what happened to us". Trauma is created when no resolution has happened in response to an emotional shock. In "The Wild Edge of Sorrow", Francis Weller shares with us a simple life moment with his son. In this simple moment, out of stress and tiredness, Francis denied giving his loving attention to his son, who was coming to him with enthusiastic questions. The son immediately turned away and ran into his bedroom; his entire system was in shock. Francis realizing what just happened, joined his son and asked him about his feelings. The son's response was, "I was so scared, I thought you didn't want to be my dad anymore". Can you feel the depths of the cliff falling out of this emotional shock for this little boy? When unresolved, such apparent simple moments grow into trauma and the belief that we don't deserve love (as adults deny it), we build new strategies to get love and compensate for our lack of love. And we all have experienced, to some degree, some trauma. Usually, they are under the radar of our consciousness. Nevertheless, it shapes our entire life perspiring from our family (lineage) and our culture.
Perpetrated violence such as leaving alone a baby crying, spanking, slapping, punishing, mocking, belittling, refusing to give our loving attention, emotional or physical threats are too often used and, unfortunately, way too often presented with educational value—these acts of violence imprint deep stress on a child. The formed traumas will indefinitely replay themselves during our life, and to survive them, we must create a strategy to escape or deny the repeated emotional shock. The primary strategy involved is one of dissociating from the feeling when it arises. Dissociation is the easiest and most efficient way not to relive a trauma and escape the past emotional shock. This mechanism makes sense to our minds. Hence, we push away the experience; we pull it under the carpet, enclose it into a cabinet, bury our head in the sand and hope for the best; we think our way out. How do we avoid the feeling and push it away? We substitute it with a "better experience" that makes us feel good on the spot: we will eat ice cream, we will binge on Netflix or Youtube videos, we will watch porn or masturbate, we will go shopping and buy products we don't need, we will go for high-risk sport providing adrenaline shots, anorexia or bulimia, we will have a cigarette or a beer,...you name it. And we will feel better. Congratulations! The strategy works well indeed. At least, for a short time because guess what? The hope hidden behind the approach to erase the emotional discomfort is not working in these terms. The emotional shock is still there, hidden and lurking under the carpet, stuck inside your psyche and your body, running your life for you. As long as such an avoiding approach is used, the past trauma-based emotional discomfort will come back.
The apparent consequences of ignoring and avoiding our traumas translate into subsiding our growing capacity and impairing our health (psychological and physical). It also fosters non-virtuous and unconscious behaviours.
The no-pain no-gain approach is such a consequence. "The willingness to regularly surpass our limits with intensity and suffering and the willingness to go beyond our comfort zone is a consequence of our past traumas" writes Oliver Lafay.
"We are so used to suffering, to being frustrated, rejected, neglected, put under pressure, and this from an early age, that what we have endured finally becomes a rule of life because we know nothing else, and we let us even despise those who speak of gentleness. […] You have to suffer to succeed, they say… Only our experience very often proves the contrary […]. By dint of violence inflicted on ourselves, we end up injured, worn out, sick, whether in sport, at work, in intimate relationships" - Olivier Lafay
Approaches and philosophies such as "Can't hurt me" from D. Goggins, Crossfit, any mental-physical toughness challenges such as Marine's mentality, no-pain no-gain body building are based on unresolved traumas trying to compensate something, usually an unseen and unfelt lack of love and not good enough feeling. These considered manly though approaches are actually destroying more than building anything. A simple question such as "why do I feel the need to be though?" is interesting to engage your relationship with it.
End of part I