Steve Thompson’s book The Sticking Point is about pain, a subject we all know something about. Pain is a message to us, an important one. We recognize physical pain quickly and easily and respond appropriately to it. But do we recognize and respond to emotional (or inner/psychological) pain with as much knowledge and speed?
The Sticking Point is a story about Leon’s first day at a new job and takes place in his first few hours of induction and introduction. It takes place in a vast, cavernous, open plan office with poor grey light and a confusing number of areas and sections (a bit like our lives!). After meeting several interesting characters (including Lisa, Richard, and Pete), Leon meets Annie who introduces him to others, becoming his guide. Each character is dealing with their pain in ways you will recognize.
It is an amusing, quick read, which if you look a bit deeper is an allegory – a story with a message. We create our pain through what we do/say/think about events and circumstances. Emotional pain becomes little sticks and the story illustrates how we deal with our pain (those little sticks) in various ways. Do we revel in it? Do we bury ourselves in it (and drown)? Do we make something beautiful out of it and share it with other people? Or do we just keep it to ourselves? If we choose we can recognize our pain, measure, handle and conquer it.
Recognising pain for the first time can be stressful, even confusing – Leon did not enjoy collecting his first sticks. If we do not deal with pain, it can become a vicious circle and impact our whole life; leaving us with an overall negative viewpoint on life. Pain can have many sources, including: from fear, anxiety, insecurity, being bullied, other people’s anger, arguments and miscommunication, demands or orders from others, being shouted at, harsh or mean words (intentioned or not), suspicion, rudeness, bad service, being ignored, missing targets or goals (or the fear thereof), sarcasm, thoughtless comments, unfairness – actual or perceived, disrespect and unreasonableness. If we do not recognize our pain it does not mean it does not exist, we are not seeing it, just stockpiling it.
Measuring our emotional pain can be a challenge. In the story, it is directly related to the number of sticks gained and the size of the pile accumulated. Once we recognize our pain, measuring it is easier.
We handle and conquer our pain, our pain sticks, in different ways. Sometimes we may choose to sweep it/them into a drawer, or construct neat piles and ignore it, we can laugh at it or use it to gain attention (positive or negative). As we deal with our pain the pile of sticks diminishes – it is what we do with our pain that is important; it can be used constructively or not.
I found the story both thought-provoking and challenging. What am I doing with my pain? Do I recognize it? Am I dealing with it or stockpiling it? A loud, clear message throughout the book is to deal with your pain as you go along before it becomes too big or too scary to avoid or ignore and it is too late to deal with easily. If you can see it as it arrives you can deal with it a little at a time, whilst it is still manageable. It suggests ways we can use to deal with our pain.
The story closes with our two main characters, Leon and Annie, constructively using a pile of discarded pain sticks to reach up to the light and escape together. I recommend the book to anyone curious to know more about their pain and curious to know how they are dealing with it.
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