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The Unmet Friends

by Juliette Mataxa(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 110 - April 2005

Destiny is not by Chance but by Choice

The Unmet Friends are emotions that have the power to bring about monumental changes in our lives. Pain, Anger and Fear can work in conjunction with one another to become our teacher and friend. To aid this idea it may help to imagine them as though they were people. In their most distilled form they are not chaotic or hostile but present themselves with a clear purpose that could be more about preservation than destruction.

They can be easily misinterpreted just as hope and faith can be misguided if not tempered by wisdom. These powerful emotions can be used as tools for self understanding, and must be embraced and understood in the context of their positive function in creating self-awareness and human fulfillment.

The Unmet Friends can be ruthless characters, but are also brilliant directors who are capable of giving us vital insight into our powers of self-healing.

Pain the Great Healer

I perceived him in my mind's eye, standing there in the corner. The embodiment of all I dreaded. Could I bear to be his friend when I had been well trained to be his enemy? I had been taught to fear Pain; he was to be avoided, ignored, in short he was not acceptable in any way. He told me that I would meet him another day, and another day after that, and he would grow in strength and hold me transfixed beneath his gaze, while I would be depleted to a bitter shadow of my former self. My life would be reduced to scurrying into hidden places, always on the move, no rest, no peace, keen to be at least one step ahead of Pain. My companion would often be dread, the ever present dread of my next meeting with him. Pain's presence would permeate every aspect of my life and I would become his agent, his victim, his tragic success. Then I would be the one to be avoided, ignored, in short I would become unacceptable.

This would happen if he were left unchallenged. Pain informed me that he was not to be taken personally because he was simply acting true to his nature. His drive was to recreate himself, but a challenge always brought out the very best in him, and for all concerned. He admitted this freely and for a moment his hard unblinking stare softened. But what was my nature? Should I continue believing all I had been told, and keep taking directions from Fear and dread and beseeching hope to never let me face Pain. Surely my life had not always been driven by such an unappealing approach. How could I continue when despite all I had learned it seemed that Pain was now waiting for me at every turn. The more I ran, the faster he chased. I was exhausted and through my stupor began to realize that my way of living and looking at the world was now causing me the very thing it was designed to protect me from, Pain. When I relayed these thoughts to Pain with the feeling of having made a great discovery, he gave out a booming laugh for one so tall, thin and straight backed.

"I am as necessary to your life as is your heart to the flow of your blood, to run from this fact will lead you to torment. To clog your heart will eventually stop your blood from flowing, plaguing your body with ailments until you exist no more. Indeed, I would consume your thoughts until my signature marked your every expression. Perhaps through me you will find some understanding and know that I am here to shape you, and teach you about your nature. All the opiates in the world cannot silence me forever. I will keep returning until I possess you, or you listen to me. Thinking you can manipulate me to suit your own ends is a weakness in which you have persisted. Believe it or not I feel compassion for your lost nature. Having run from me you have been distancing yourself from the truth of who you really are, denying yourself the awareness and strength you could use to bring peace and dignity to your life through the companionship I offer you. By not listening to me you betray yourself and those you hope to love. I am here to warn you that you are running out of time. Soon I will see to it that you have no respite from me, and I will become too much for you to bear. Then I will move on. I have challenges to discover, interesting, beautiful, wondrous natures to shape and friends to make of them. They are the masterpieces of my work. You are all my work."

I was staggered. His tone was not unfriendly, maybe a little matter-of-fact. It was as though he had repeated this soliloquy many times. But I did notice a definite warmth when he spoke of his masterpieces; I know now that it was love. He loved the friends he made through the lives he challenged. I chose to embrace him and trust that he had a true purpose intended for me. I would not run from him, I would not fight him. Instead I would put all my energies into steadying and calming my nerves. I would allow every discomfort I sensed to wash over me as though I were a stone on a river bed. He was pleased with my decision and came to sit alongside me. I was a stone on a river bed, I was a stone on a river bed. Quickly the discomfort started washing over me, it kept washing over me. Then he held my hand.

His strength poured the reality of Pain into me, filling me with images and feelings that he hoped would help me to understand the necessity of our friendship. Forcing me to call upon my imagination to conjure up the images that would make the most sense to me. I felt dizzy as Pain seared through me and I struggled to not panic. Then from deep within my subconscious visions began to fill my mind.

I saw a harrowing trail on a grey and hostile mountain ridge. I looked down at my feet creeping along the rough and frosty path. On either side of it lay sheer drops of what could have been a thousand feet or more, but I could not see because of the surrounding clouds. I knew the stone voids were there just as I knew that at any moment I could fall into them. I was at the mercy of the wintry elements, which I imagined to be great playful lords of power mightily amused at my fearful limitations. Their piercing voices wondered aloud should I be pushed to my death or left alone to challenge the mountain. I felt them watching and judging my every step, my heart pounding with each succession. All I could do was to carry on putting one foot in front of the other. As I made progress the power of their voices began to wane and I felt encouraged. Although the wind continued to whip at my skin making my eyes stream, I struggled forward making sure to watch every footstep. I started to notice that the perilous path was disappearing and soon I found myself on safer ground. I dared to raise my head and look around. I had reached the summit of my mountain where the air was still and the sun was warm and bright, and the view was beyond magnificent. I experienced such elation, as I've never known… Once again the embodiment of Pain appeared at my side, his lean frame and dark robes were less threatening on my mountaintop.

"Look at the view," I said smiling.

But instead he kept looking at me with a gaze that softened by the moment.

"Interesting, beautiful and wondrous," he whispered.

I began to realize that without the help of this character that stood before me, I would certainly have become lost. In fact I had been, I was ill at having felt so lost. Stress and sickness had taken its toll on my body. Periodically I had been cured of the aches and pains, the emotional turmoil, the depression, but I was not healing. Pain kept returning in one form or another. I then realized that being cured is not quite the same as being healed. Healing is more profound. Something deep inside a person has to change significantly for healing to take place. Healing comes from the inside and only ever has to happen once. A cure comes from the outside and could be administered many times. I looked again at the intense face of Pain and became conscious that it was possible for us to heal each other.

"What do we do now?" I asked, my voice sounded like a child's.

"We must keep discovering," he said.

"What does that mean?"

"Our relationship is a journey and at times it will be tough and gruelling, and you will be wounded, but you will come to rest all the greater and more fertile in spirit. You have been used to far worse. You were in a battle that you had no chance of winning because you saw me as an enemy, ensuring that Pain had already won the war. Can you imagine a more hopeless existence?"

"But what if I fail!" I cried, suddenly insecure. Pain gave me a thin smile and put his arm out for me to take.

"Now that we are friends you cannot fail."

Feeling somewhat dazed and more vulnerable than I could ever remember, I linked my arm in his and began walking where he led, and so began our friendship. With deepening breaths I was filled with a new awareness that made me see my mortality. Over time Pain showed me a world that I had chosen not to see, though it had existed all around me. There were times when I clutched his arm so tightly that I thought we would both collapse from the strain. But we never did. I became aware of my own inner strength which my fears had blocked me from recognizing. Pain drew it out of me and tempered it with his wisdom. I endured, learning to trust and accept his presence in my life more and more. I opened my heart to my many imperfections. Pain had put me on a path of self-discovery and forgiveness. I have felt horribly wounded as I let go of the ideas that used to direct my life. My sleep was haunted by nightmares of me taking a knife and cutting off my hand, but to my horror I discovered it to be a ghostly third hand that hung from my wrist, a withered mutation I had believed to be functional and necessary in my everyday life. Now when I dream there is a scar where it used to be which is healing gradually and sometimes I forget that the third hand had ever existed. However, the memory of my reliance on illusions that forced me to make burdening choices I cannot forget. I bore burdens for the sake of other people's approval, and to convince myself that I was working hard to face life and to find love, even though my heart was breaking and my body was not far behind.

In the end I chose to accept Pain with understanding instead of challenging him with Fear. Pain now visits me occasionally and we talk and cry together, dealing with life and the memories he can help me unlock. Then he will sit close by and I remember the things that have touched my heart but failed to work out the way I had hoped. We reminisce, releasing our regrets and our sorrow. We tread gently in the places that are not quick to heal, and the places that I never really want to heal, because it is all I have left of someone I have loved and will never see on this earth again. Pain is my adviser, and when my world turns to grey I accept his companionship. When he comes knocking at my door I do not rush to open it but gather my strength, remembering that he can show me a gateway to peace, even though he usually appears as a stumbling block. It is also strange that these days his face looks more like my own. Sometimes I am comforted by this and at other times I find it upsetting. I know we are one but I can still find this similarity disturbing, because for most of my life I perceived him as my enemy. Through Pain I made contact with my true self and found that once I managed my life better, Pain visited me less. His touch was never as threatening because I had learnt not to fear him as much.

Fear and Anger

I have also learnt more about the company Pain tends to keep, about his siblings, Fear and Anger. Fear with her many guises, from a quivering child hiding in the shadows, to a fierce figurehead of an old pirate ship screaming out that the worst was yet to come. This is how she manifested herself to me, and the more I used to listen to her irrational guidance, the more imposing her stature became. At first I could not see her purpose until Pain told me that it was more simple than I had ever imagined. Fear was a warning that was asking me to address something. Something or perhaps nothing. But it had to be addressed all the same; a childhood worry that I had neglected to outgrow, a family or cultural concern that had never made sense to me but yet I had adhered to, despite feeling uncomfortable. I found that I was making many unconscious choices that did not suit the person I was inside, the person my life had shaped me to become. Some of my fears were perfectly valid, and once I had addressed them and decided that they were worth taking into account, Fear still appeared vulnerable and childlike but was content to return to the hallways of my mind. Roaming around, she would spy from the windows keeping watch on my life ready to flag up anything that pricked her suspicion, something or perhaps nothing, it was up to me to consciously decide, control the outcome and take responsibility for it. It then seemed natural to me that leaving Fear unchecked she would grow beyond herself and all too quickly seek out her brother, Anger. He is surprisingly agile for one who wears so much body armour. He is shiny and black and lurks in the darkest woods of our minds. He is at his most deadly when silently standing straight and still, feet astride with his sword raised parallel to his visor. Fear has whispered to him all the tales of possible woes this executor of blows can take before he is forced to lash out, with or without ceremony, and at that moment of delivery all three siblings come together, watching, waiting, wondering if they will be called upon to tell a more interesting and meaningful story about the person they dwell inside. Fear is bound by her nature to want Anger to defend her, and Anger is bound by his nature to protect Fear and Pain from any further suffering, imagined or otherwise, although if Fear has been left unchecked the threat tends largely to be imagined. And Pain, remains painful and will only continue to grow in discomfort until the alarm raised by Fear has been addressed and sorted out. It is Pain who constantly alerts Fear to be vigilant, but if Fear is tempered by truth and rationale, it is then possible for us to see her brother Pain more clearly and examine why he is determined for Fear to be so sensitive. Until Pain himself has been addressed and eased, Anger will be reliably waiting in the wings to defend him. Anger is an energy we will always be able to call upon because it is safe to say that all of us will forever have fears, if not for ourselves then for those we love. There will be the fears we can live with, and those we will always find it hard to deal with. Primarily Anger wants nothing more than to listen to Fear, and defend Pain from accumulating further suffering. Although to complicate matters Fear and Anger are also wary and sometimes terrified of their brother Pain, because he hurts them too. The key to all of this is to understand the Pain that lies within us, to face it, to deal with what we can, and live with what we can't. Separating these things out can take a very long time. To start achieving this we can handle our Fear and tame our Anger so we can become more assertive in taking care of our emotional and mental health, which can only help our physical bodies. We can never always escape Pain, and it is unrealistic to keep trying. We must not be too thrown if our actions fail us, be it medication, diets, habits, ideas. If we look at the way we think and examine our lives with an open heart and mind, then we may find a healing attitude that can help us live with Pain more peaceably.

Pain, Fear and Anger will follow us no matter where we go, whether they have their roots in us or the emotional history of our families. In facing them we learn where our courage is hidden, and how that courage is best used to enrich our lives. We owe that to ourselves, and to those we hope to love.


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About Juliette Mataxa

Juliette Mataxa has a background in psychology, which has contributed to her success as a ghostwriter. She has collaborated on over 100 published biographies and works of fiction, directed and produced news coverage for CNN, and continues to be involved in television broadcasting in Britain and the United States. She is based in the West country of England and San Francisco, California. Juliette can be contacted at

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