The Rock and the Hard Place: Exploring the Gifts of Pain

Being in pain is like being between a rock and a hard place.
The Rock: I am in pain. The Hard Place: I want it to stop.

Is the struggle with pain a daily reality for you?

Does your pain ever feel like a punishment – or proof that something is wrong with you?
Is physical (or emotional) pain simply too much sometimes?

Pain and the struggle to not be in pain can dominate our daily reality. The thoughts: “What if this goes on forever?” and the feelings: worry, anxiety, depression, despair – compound the pain itself and sap our energy. Emotional pain can be as bad as physical pain, dragging us down and fogging our brains.

Does it have to be that way? Wouldn’t it be great if our life energy and our unquenchable spirit could emerge, stronger than the pain? If we could find a way to do that, then in a real way even the pain would have a gift in it.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to stop fighting with your pain
  • How to use body awareness to track physical symptoms and monitor what kind of help and support you need
  • The problem with the word “pain” and how the language we use can change our internal experience
  • How to give your emotional (or physical) pain the space it needs to change without being forced.
  • How to get in touch with the resources you really have that have been masked by the pain
  • How to receive the gifts in your pain.

At A Glance:


For anyone who wants to be less limited by the struggle with physical and/or emotional pain.


In this three-module interactive video course, Ann shows you how to release the struggle over physical and emotional pain so that you can tune in to what your pain is actually asking from you.  > Full Course Description


In your own home or office, on your own computer or mobile device, anywhere and anytime.


You need your strength and your resilient life energy to make wise choices about your pain. You need to be able to listen to the whispers of what is needed instead of the shouts of fear about what it all means. Your body knows how to take steps of healing; you can learn to give it the best support for that.

Do you want to radically shift your relationship with pain?

Being in pain is like being between a rock and a hard place. The Rock: I am in pain. The Hard Place: I want it to stop. It’s hard enough to be in pain without also being in self-blame about what it means about you, and in anxiety about whether it will go on forever.

This is a course about finding the simplicity in pain. Pain is actually very simple. It’s all those reactions that complicate it: the self-blame, the anxiety about the future, the fear about what it means. Those are all ways we fight our pain. As soon as we are not fighting with pain, we can bring a simple kind of attention to it – open, curious, exploring. It’s amazing what kind of guidance that can bring.

In the three weeks of this course, I will show you a method for shifting your relationship with pain, both emotional and physical (can we always tell the difference?), and for accessing your resources of resilience, life energy, and wisdom.

Maybe it will still hurt. I can’t promise a cure. But change is possible. Your body has resources beyond what you know, that’s for sure. Let’s explore together how to shift awareness so that the pain has the most chance of healing – and so that you find the gifts in your pain.

Three weekly modules – Each introduces one or two new skills you can use to transform your relationship with pain.

Number 1

Letting Go of the Labels:

However bad the pain is, the emotional and mental struggle around it makes it worse. That includes the fears and worries and resistance that arise around feeling it. And there is a way of shifting that struggle so it is much less.

Emotional Pain and Chronic Pain:

About any kind of pain, there is one fundamental stance that can be enormously helpful. It is to know, and to say: This is here for some good reason. From this place, we can bring curiosity and compassion to what hurts, helping it to change even a little bit.

Exploring the Gifts of Pain:

When we are in the midst of pain, it can be hard to remember that pain helps us exercise and strengthen resources and capabilities within ourselves. Together we’ll explore what some of those unexpected gifts might be.

Pain is a Communication We Can Receive…

Late one night in an unfamiliar lodging, all alone, I burned my arm trying to turn off an electric tea kettle in the dark. The pain was excruciating. I ran cold water on the burn and lay down to try to get some sleep.

Using the kind of simple awareness I had learned from Focusing, I didn’t try to struggle with the pain of the burn, or feel scared of how much it hurt, or feel sorry for myself. I simply sank into the sensation, sensing exactly how it felt. I searched for a word to describe the sensation (not “pain”). The word that came was “sizzling.” Soon after that, I fell asleep.

In the morning, my arm did not hurt at all. I could see a large blister beginning to come up at the burn site. But there was no pain whatsoever. Over the next few weeks the injury cycled through a healing process… but it never hurt again. I always thought that injuries kept hurting until they healed. Evidently not.

From experiences like this I have come to believe that pain is a communication and that when we receive the communication, it may not need to keep sending. For more serious injuries I have not found that pain goes away completely like this – but I have found that this non-struggling, simple awareness speeds up healing and reduces the emotional strain and energy drain.

About Your Guide

Ann created Inner Relationship Focusing with her long-time colleague, Barbara McGavin, to help people learn to listen compassionately to all the inner voices. Along the way, Ann and Barbara developed a radical new process for relating to the self-blaming voices inside them. It changed their lives, and it became their mission to help others transform as well.

For over 35 years now, Ann’s been teaching this practical, revolutionary process to people all over the world. With The Rock and The Hard Place on-demand course, you get the benefit of Ann’s expertise and the chance to practice the simple, yet revolutionary process of Focusing with her gentle, compassionate guidance.

Ann is the author of Focusing in Clinical Practice: The Essence of Change, The Power of Focusing, and The Radical Acceptance of Everything. Today she is internationally recognized as one of the leading innovators and theoreticians of Focusing.

Read More About Ann’s Personal Experiences with Pain…

When Pain is Emotional: Ann shares a time when unbearable emotional pain led to a new possibility

If you ask me what was the worst time in my life, there is no hesitation about the answer. It was when my sister was dying of cancer and I learned that my brother was also dying of cancer. My only sister, my only brother. They were 44 and 46. They ended up dying three weeks apart. The impact on me: I became an emotional wreck. Floods of tears, a feeling of fragility, a foggy mind, vulnerability, anxiety… the whole deal.

In the midst of that, my landlord told me that I would have to leave the safe little cottage I had been renting. Just what I needed, right? But an interesting thing happened. Because I simply did not have the capacity to deal with this situation in a normal way, I flipped into a higher state. I heard myself asking the Larger System, “What do You want of me now?”

And the answer came: Start a Focusing center. I ended up buying a three-bedroom house, something I never imagined I could do. That opened up a whole new part of my life, an expansion that is still continuing.

Emotional suffering took me outside of my usual assumptions and opened me up to possibilities that were never there before… but I believe that happened only because I made use of the overwhelm to access my larger resources. No matter what your spiritual practice, you do have larger resources… and in this course I will show you a way to access them.

How Pain Became My Teacher: Ann’s experience with years of pain from a serious injury

In January 2014 I was walking across a street in my neighborhood when I suddenly became aware that I was about to be hit by a big car. I had no time to run or escape or do anything except yell in terror and outrage. The next thing I knew I had landed on my hands and knees on the ground, forty feet from the point of being hit. That evening at the ER I learned that my pelvis had been fractured in two places.

Over the months that followed, I learned what it meant to live a life dominated by pain and physical limitation. How to manage my pain, how to sit and how to move so I would hurt less… those questions were always at the top of my mind. Everything else – my work, my relationships, the rest of my life – came second.

I learned how to let my body tell me what it needed. I learned how to follow clues from other people as well. A casual remark by a bodyworker led me to seek out a local swimming pool where I could do “pool-walking,” and for months I got up at 6:00 AM four days a week to be able to walk free of pain. Going out to a restaurant meant carrying a cushion to sit on. Sleeping at night meant pillows under my knees. I learned to respond instantly to the inner sense that it was time to get up and stretch – or pay for it by suffering more later.

Pain became my teacher and guide. I can tell you the gifts I received from pain… although I’m not saying that your gifts would be the same. Here are three of mine:

One: When I am in contact with my pain, I am in contact with present time reality… with what is absolutely true.
Two: I have no time for unimportant stuff. And I have an inner compass for what is important.
Three: If I am not going to be a victim then I have to be a hero. There are no other choices.

Begin Your Journey Toward a New Relationship with Pain

I can help you learn how to…

Work with the Fears & Worries that Arise Around Feeling Pain

Begin to Bring Compassion & Curiosity to What Hurts

Radically Transform Your Relationship with Pain

Enroll for Your On-Demand Course Here

The Rock and The Hard Place: Exploring the Gifts of Pain

The Rock and The Hard Place: Exploring the Gifts of Pain


3-week on-demand video course
Unlimited, lifetime access
Downloadable workbook
Access to our online forum


Get 6 Powerful Guided Exercises:

Turning Toward Our Reactions
Allowing It to Be As It Is… Letting Go of Labels
Pain is a Communication
Pain Can Let Us Know What It Needs
The Gifts of Pain
Life Energy and Unquenchable Spirit
And much, much more…

Note: This is an interactive video-based training. Video was recorded during an actual live course and has been edited. Sound quality may vary.

How This Course Works

Learn Wherever You Like

This video course is accessible by computer, tablet, or smart phone. If you can connect to the internet, you can connect to this course!

Be Supported In Your Process!

You won’t be going it alone! You’ll have access to a forum to chat with other students, plus access to Ann for parts where you might feel stuck

Available at Your Convenience!

You can move through this course as quickly or slowly as you like. You’ll also have lifetime access to the material, so you can revisit it anytime

Interactive Materials

This course includes a beautiful PDF workbook to help you integrate your learning. There will also be checkpoints during the course to check-in on your progress.

What People Are Saying…

  • Stefanie
    "Before The Rock & The Hard Place course, I felt disconnected while longing to be in contact with friends and other people. Now, I feel connected with something bigger than me. There's a warm space in my body that keeps me calm and feeling at home just where I am. There used to be a lot of uncertainty with decisions and my place in life. Now, I can feel my power and trust myself better. The anxiety concerning health problems is going away more and more as I achieve positive results with my self-care and being more self-aware. It's such a gift to feel more compassion for myself and others."
  • Sharon C.
    “At some point in the Rock & The Hard Place course, I understood that my bodily feelings (often overwhelming) were a part of me, but not all of me and that they were trying to tell me something in an effort to help me. Even the 'undesirable' feelings were a result of an effort to help. I was able to close my eyes and listen to what my body and feelings were trying to tell me - instead of avoiding and being so afraid of them.”
  • Julie C.
    "Before the Rock & The Hard Place, I considered my pain a bit was something I just had to live with. The Rock & The Hard Place was different; the course encouraged me to invite the pain in and feel it in the present moment, exactly how it is, instead of dismissing it. I also learned how to make space for me to be with the part of me that just wants the pain to go away. During one of the exercises I knew something different was happening because I realized that most of my body felt good - relaxed even - and that the pain affects a small fraction of my body as a whole. What a gift to see what is there in the moment and to find some compassion for the something in me that hurts."
  • Mary J.
    "I took the Rock & The Hard Place hoping to find a way to work with severe pain I experience at night from a torn hip tendon. I realized the course was making a difference as I took the time to sense into the words that described the exact sensation of the pain in the moment. It was very surprising to me that the pain began to subside with just this small intervention. Quite remarkable! Now, I have a way to deal with the symptoms of my pain."
  • S.P.
    "Before The Rock & the Hard Place, my biggest challenge was using lots of my energy to run away from my feelings or hold them in my body. As a result, I felt very tired and didn't have much energy for everyday or creative life. Now, I'm able to say hello to those feelings. I have the tools to do this for myself. Regular talk therapy is nowhere near as helpful as Focusing. Focusing teaches you to listen to yourself and that creates so much relief!"
  • R.A.F.
    “Ann’s approach to chronic pain was illuminating. She shared teachings, exercises, processes and approaches I found very helpful in my ongoing struggle to live with chronic pain.”

Money Back Guarantee

Your course comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. If you let us know within one year after you purchase the course that we didn’t deliver what we said we would, just ask and we’ll cheerfully refund the full course fee.

How am I going to fit this into my life right now?

The great news is that you can take this course whenever it works for you. You get content when you want it, plus lifetime access. No stressing out about being somewhere on time. Way less pressure to move through the material at a pace that might not fit for you. The lessons are compact and set up so that you can do them in small bites or big chunks depending on your learning style and your availability.

Do I get access to the course all at once?

Yes. You get all the course content at once. We recommend that you work through each lesson and practice the material so you move forward in small, consistent steps. Going a little slower helps provide time to integrate the skills and processes in each section.

Tell me more about the classroom environment and how course content is provided?

Sure. The classroom is virtual and taught in a learning platform called Ruzuku. Materials are provided via a combination of video, audio slideshows, and written content to cover a variety of learning styles. There is a forum so you can connect with other program participants and be part of a dynamic learning community. And you get lifetime access to all of it. Go through it once and come back anytime you need some extra support to handle life!

Can my friend and I share the course?

Thanks for asking. Each course is licensed to a single user – you! While we can’t authorize you to share the materials, we’d love to have your friend participate too. Please feel free to invite them to sign up too!

Are CE Credits available?

No, we’re sorry. Continuing Education Units (CE Credits) are not available for this course. If you need CE Credits, please check out our upcoming live online courses here.



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