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Michael Jackson: King of Pain

Remembering Michael Jackson and learning from his tragic death.

What we can learn about dealing with our own pain from his tragic demise.

We now know that in the last years of Michael Jackson's life, he sought out huge quantities of prescription painkillers—enough to kill a horse—from an untold number of doctors. If any of his friends questioned him about it, he would tell them not to worry, claiming he had a "high tolerance." I suppose that's why it seemed reasonable to him to take an incredibly powerful anesthetic every night in order to get some sleep. Did he know that he was taking his life in his hands? Obviously, his internal torment was so great that he was willing to risk sliding into oblivion.

What was revealed to the world after his death was that the King of Pop was more a poster boy for the King of Pain. What pain was he trying so desperately to suppress? And was there another way to deal with it?

We all experience traumas in our childhood that lead to pain. We then either experience the pain and grow through it or try to bury or deny it. Our society is largely emotion-phobic; we're afraid of dealing with our pain. Instead, we come up with endless creative strategies for dulling it, from drugs and alcohol to shopping and pornography.

At the heart of pain are the unspoken truths we hold deep inside-truths about what happened to us in our past, and our beliefs and feelings about those truths. Every experience that we don't accept and fully process becomes an energy that gets trapped inside. But the truth is a force of tremendous magnitude, and sooner or later it will push its way to the surface, manifesting as ill health, dysfunctional relationships, or financial problems. I would venture to say that underneath every dysfunction is some truth trying to be revealed.

Looking at Michael's life, we see many truths crying out (rather loudly) to be heard and acknowledged. Financial problems, broken relationships, body dysmorphic disorder and countless cosmetic surgeries, drug abuse, and questionable if not criminal relationships with minors. What pain were these indicative of? We all know the story of Michael's childhood: the loss of childhood for a career, a father who never validated or loved the boy just for who he was, an identity based solely on celebrity and public approval, then the devastating acne that would send him into a tailspin of self-loathing as a teen.

As children, it's natural to suppress our pain because at that stage of our development it's too difficult to deal with. As an adult, it apparently proved too scary for Michael to face his pain. The truth is often uncomfortable because it carries so much shame with it, and we all tend to avoid what is uncomfortable. When you couple that natural tendency with abundant financial resources and the ability to cut people out of your life when things get sticky, the choice becomes harder still. It takes a sincere desire and dedication to heal.

Instead of giving voice to his pain, Michael tried every way he could to control it and keep it down. When he could no longer keep his pain buried, he tried to numb it with drugs. But what he needed to do was to feel the painful truth and express it. That's the ironic thing about the truth: what we were certain would kill us is ultimately what saves us. Too bad Michael never understood that.

The truth will always do its part in speaking out to us, hailing our attention through the "problems" in our lives, but ultimately it's an individual's choice whether or not to answer the call and delve into personal growth and healing. Michael's problems were certainly big enough to get his attention, but he fell into the trap of his celebrity. If only he had gone to half the lengths to heal his pain as he did to avoid it, his story would have ended much differently. And that's the real difference between a triumph and a tragedy-the ability to overcome our personal challenges and learn our life lessons. May Michael's death be a reminder to us all.

Healing is also hard because we don't have a clue how to do it. Where do we begin? Following are a few basic steps to get you on your way to listening for the truths within you that are crying out to be heard, then releasing them safely to set yourself free from their toxicity and potential destructiveness.

  1. Meditation: A great place for the healing journey to begin is with daily meditation. The purpose is to create a space where your truth can come forward and be heard. Meditation also forges a connection to your higher, wiser self, bringing a greater sense of clarity, purpose, and meaning. I always recommend learning meditation experientially from a qualified teacher.
  2. Journaling: A personal daily journal creates a safe place where feelings and beliefs can be discovered and expressed. The goal is stream of consciousness, where you write your thoughts and feelings without self-editing or interruption. Express exactly how you feel, without holding anything back. Nothing is off limits. Journaling offers a safe release of feelings and brings a greater awareness to our beliefs. We can't change what we don't know exists.
  3. Counseling/Talk therapy: Speaking your truth to a neutral party, who will accept you no matter what you say, is a great way to release buried emotions. A good therapist will provide the safety of a confidential place and unconditional acceptance in this process.
  4. Bodywork: Energy that has been long stored in the body can be released from the body. Bodywork, like acupuncture or massage, may trigger an awareness and release of old feelings and beliefs. It can also ground you more fully in your body, thereby making you more present for your life.

The biggest component to healing is an unwavering commitment to the truth. Your truth. You must realize its value and pursue it with all your might. As the saying goes, the truth will set you free.

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