Channeling Your Pain To Help Yourself And Others

The July 2015 issue of Outside magazine has an article about an Oregon entrepreneur named Chad Brown. I liked the article and thought other readers here might find it useful and instructive. It’s about pain, recovery, and channeling your despair into productive work.

Brown had joined the Navy when he was 20 years old, and had been assigned to duty in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. Those who know their recent history will know instantly what that means. His official job description was that of a “combat stevedore”; his job was to provide security and logistics for equipment that was offloaded from the docks and trucked to various points around the city.

Mogadishu in 1993 was lawless. He described how he and his comrades were often shot at by snipers and trouble-makers of various stripes. “Mogadishu was nasty…a beehive,” as he describes it. He would have to take Somali men into custody every now and then, for security, and the job bothered him after a while. His role was a little too colonial for his tastes. One of his friends was killed.

Over time he thought about these experiences more and more.

He got out of the military in 1994 and then attended college on the GI Bill. After receiving a degree in communications and design from New York City’s Pratt Institute, he went to work in the advertising industry in New York City. The pace and intensity of life there kept his mind constantly active, with little time for melancholy or brooding.

But that was soon to change. Brown’s life took a nosedive in 2008 when he accepted a contract job in Oregon. He had always been close to his family, and the geographical separation from them cut him away from his psychological moorings. The people, the culture, and the climate were different from what he was used to. And slowly things began to unravel.


First came the excessive drinking. This led to his losing his job. And once the income dried up, he found himself reaching rock bottom. “I was in a dark place,” he relates. “I had no one to turn to. I was borderline homeless.” He couldn’t reach out to his parents because they didn’t understand his experiences or frames of reference. For living expenses, he learned to sell his blood.

Things came to a head in 2009, when he bought a gun and headed to the Clackamas River to shoot himself. There was no other way out, it seemed to him.

But something stopped him. The peaceful quality of the river, the sound of running water which appeared to be the beating of some great invisible Heart, somehow rejuvenated him. He called his family, which advised him to contact the Veterans Administration suicide hotline. He checked himself into a psychiatric ward.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The few days he spent there were productive. He learned about PTSD and all its features: inability to concentrate, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

One of the hospital orderlies took him bass fishing. It was one of those turning-point experiences in his life. The meditative quality of being in the outdoors, the direct contact he had with other species of wildlife, and the need to focus on the task at hand were all things that he found restful.


The curative power of being around running water is something that has been documented. It seems to encourage a heightened state of attention in the human brain, and can counteract the negative effects of living in an overly-automated society. A 2009 study conducted by the VA found that test group of men experienced a significant reduction in their salivary cortisol, immunoglobins, and urinary catecholamines after going on a fishing trip.

Although he had no money, he took a leap of faith and bought some fly-fishing gear on credit. He learned to fish by watching videos on YouTube and by taking advice from anyone who would offer it. The act of fishing itself had restorative powers for Brown:

That was my healing. Fishing evolved me to a place where I was ready to get back in society and kick ass…I was standing in the water waist deep, and I thought, this river has basically saved my life. I’ve got to do something for others. It became about more than just me, and that’s when my design side started to kick in.

His goal was to start a fishing gear and accessories company that would help fund education and conservation efforts. His plan was to provide a resource that people might go to for donated fishing equipment and information about fishing. He also tried his hand at designing reels, clothing, and bags. Invitations came in for him to speak to others. His business, Soul River, combined philanthropic and commercial purposes.

Chad Brown found a way to channel his anger and pain into productive work. He said, “[I believe] in finding a way to radiate your pain outward to help others.” By any measure, he has succeeded. No matter what agonies of misfortune wash over us, we must find ways of converting the negative into the positive.

It may just save our lives.

Read More: 3 Ways Men Can Try To Fix The System

41 thoughts on “Channeling Your Pain To Help Yourself And Others”

  1. “The curative power of being around running water is something that has been documented.”
    That’s why all the rich fucks (read: people before us who showed up early and had big “drive work offshore” paychecks and bennies for everything) bought up all the good land.
    The only running water we are going to get is when the toilet overflows.

    1. In a survival situation, feel free to gather and boil the water in the top deck of the toilet as it is actually quite clean.

  2. Inspirational article. Running water is healing because it’s energized and mineralized from the friction with the pebbles.

    1. A great idea for an article- a breakdown of the movie as well as the book…

      1. Take it up ! Every time I push someone to write articles they do get the job done, but not quite as you would expect it. I too will write one article in the upcoming future.

    2. One of my Professors was from Wyoming. He said the river in the book and movie, now has water front properties all along it, and isn’t open to public fishing anymore. Can’t stop progress, heh!

  3. Im glad to see Outside magazine still exists. I was in the local druggie mart corp store and 80% of the magazines are targeted at women. Good luck finding something like Smithsonian or Wired magazine in your local drugstore. A copy of Southern Hospitality (even here in NY) however…

  4. went fishing piranhas with some poor guy in the slums of iquitos, peru. one of those fuckers bit through my thumb like through butter – well, i had to try touching those teeth.
    was one of the greatest and most peaceful experiences of my life. doing something useful, in direct exposure with nature, life, death. no talking, no computers, no radio, only the hot sun, the wood huts and the amazonas.

    1. “iquitos, peru”
      South America is probably one of the last areas on the planet one can go to ‘get away from it all’ . Even the most rural parts of the USA are still
      homeland security monitored.
      Sure there exists cell phones and internet in SA, but there are places there where you truly feel you’ve scraped the modern world off your shoe.

  5. I practise a technique called cold exposure thermogenesis
    Soothes inflammation and makes adrenaline and anti stress hormones go nuts, the body and mind overcompensate for the stress of the cold even healing DNA and lengthening telomeres which are behind aging
    What you do is bring a stopwatch with you in the shower, start off at your normal temperature , than after 3-5 mins, turn the shower knob colder a couple of degrees, keep doing this every 30 seconds until it cant get any colder without shutting off, by this point you should be unable to stand still and probably in excruciating cold shock, possibly even spazzing , endure this for 5 more minutes, that is the procedure, once this is over you will be one happy man i guarantee it
    The skin is the membrane of the body similar to the cellular membrane of a single of the trillions of cells and it is responsive to temperature stress which is why saunas are good, and why controlled scientific cold exposure is good, it hardens and increases the stress resistance and health of the entire body, it may largely be the heat of exercise that is respinsible for a larger part of the benefits of cardio as it causes heat shock proteins to be created which cause aging resistance, id put the bell curve of cold exposure at around 10-12 minutes doing more wont gain more imo

    1. I do sauna at least once a week. There is no greater feeling than fully submerge yourself in ice cold water after a sauna session. My mind is sharp and my thoughts are clear and my body is re-energized. Great feeling.

      1. Sauna is nice. If you cannot afford to build one, there’s the ‘hillbilly sauna’ and also works well. :
        Place two space heaters into an empty clothes closet and a folding chair to sit. Have plant sprayer with water to keep yourself hydrated and a small tree branch ‘switch’ handy. Vodka optional.
        Works well 🙂

  6. Basically sums up Oregon. The people suck, but the nature is awesome. Mostly sheltered white people only used to being sheltered and white, but they read so they think they know everything.
    Tough place to be a black guy. Dude did well. Maybe if he’s nice the white people who run the NAACP in Eugene will let him volunteer someday.

    1. Ouch. Some truth to that. To be fair, the converse is true in many if not most black areas (except for the reading part). You have millions of black kids that have no frame of reference outside of “blackness”, including being around Asians, Latinos, not just Whites. No understanding that the world around them functions differently–as that one dorky black social critic pointed out (forgot his name, looks like Urkel), paraphrasing, “Blacks get out in the real world and realize White people are running things, doing things, making things happen, and it is confusing to them”. I’ve never met more ignorant people as Black Americans, who lack almost any understanding of other people, and simply cannot relate. Speaking as a Latino, whites have a zest for life, to know about other cultures (not always for the better), to “experience” the other. Whites will have friends from all over the world, but even in world-class metro areas of the US, where “educated” blacks live, they have almost no connection to anything outside of their culture–no friends of “color”, any color, nor for the most part, any understanding of various foods, music, culture. Blacks don’t join the peace corps, or travel the world (not including the “Islands” which blacks think make them so international, sorry the world is more than the Bahamas). Just some thoughts from someone who’s traveled the world and is bilingual.

      1. What’s a ‘latino’? Hispanic, latino etc were made up by the US government. People generally just say where they’re from. I’m Cuban or Argentine or Chilean etc I’m European whose family has lived in Cuba for the past 200 years. Or I’m a European or negro of Brazilian nationality. Nationality is just the country you’re a citizen of not always ethnicity. I’m an American for example would mean White since in most people’s minds the country was 90% Euro(perhaps 80% today) or I’m Jamaican people think negro even though there are whites there.

    2. Yeah, all of those sheltered White people from the Pacific NW who gave you that computer you’re using lol The American negro is the dumbest and most insulated group of people on earth despite the fact they they see White people every day in the city, on TV and in the films etc, and negro females are 98% retarded(probably that crap they put on their heads has seeped into the brain and destroyed it).
      15 years ago no negro even had a PC and it’s only in the last 5 years, cheap Smartphones are like the last couple of years. What do they do with this stuff now that they have them? Use them as toys to upload crap to hiphop, youtube and watch videos about some nonsense by another negro about how they were ‘kings’ and flying rocket ships around Africa while the White man was living in caves lol They are like kids and will believe any silly crap they see on a video and are basically uneducated.They are the least competent people on earth when it comes to taking care of themselves and lack all mental discipline like the character in this article. You would think that this guy was a POW in N Vietnam for 5 years living in a hole or being tortured. He was basically a stock boy in the service who did some minor occasional police work.

      1. Bring your ignorance of socioeconomic status back to Heartiste where it belongs boy.

        1. The people from the lower classes are the dumb ones.Now that they finally got computers over the past 7-8 years and smart phones over the past 2 you can really see how stupid and gullible they really are. They have stunk up the Net and turned it into a ‘hood and filled Youtube with total crap. Youtube was created 10 years ago but of course it took years to become popular and most of what’s there is in the less that 5 year period just about the time that negroes finally got their own PC’s. You can see how retarded it’s become. White technology is just used as toys by negroes and compared to every other race on earth, negroes actually become dumber when they have access to technology, not smarter, because all they use it for is ignorant bullshit. You only have to read the stupid comments on this blog that has a disproportionate number of lazy loser negroes to read for yourself on how stupid they really are.

  7. For some reason this page keeps jumping around randomly and I had to copy and paste the article into word just to read it.

  8. Great article. It is lacking in res sentiment and suggesting a healthy, proactive way for men to be men again.

  9. Positive message and very good timing. We grapple with so much on a daily basis, both internally and externally. It is always nice seeing someone beat their demons. Especially when the only loss is the shedding of a destructive nature within themselves. This was a great find Quintus!

    1. Exactly.
      The other alternative is to be inundated with mainstream click bait revolving around some fat girl reframing her quest for self improvement by deciding she’s beautiful as she is instead of pushing through the challenge until the end. Mediocrity with a slather of delusion masked as an achievement.
      Real tales about real men getting real results. Need more of ’em.

  10. I can definitely speak for the healing powers of water. I used to live on a dock and there are few things more peaceful than looking out at the water first thing in the morning.
    More importantly, after nearly entering into a disastrous marriage, I spent a week staying in a cottage on the beach on a Caribbean Island. I felt so at peace during that week.

  11. *&^&*%&^
    Here’s why you’re a moron. Putin doesn’t care about the Russian economy. He cares about the “Putin Economy,” which is about lining his accounts with billions of dollars. He is the head of the
    Russian Maffia. Obama did not hurt Putin. He hurt the Russian citizens that Putin could care less about
    ——-..– http://www.WorldCareersProviders/ supertakecent/cold/marketing…

  12. Chad is a hero for all men. We are faced with challenges we are usually ill equipped and poorly understand the situations we get ourselves into at a tender age. PTSD is a serious condition and I have felt that talking to a counselor is good medicine. Keep searching until you find a good one. The VA may suck at a lot of things but there are people out there that can help…healing through water… “A River Runs through it”. Great movie. Many do not understand all the nuances in the film unless you actually lived the river. Man is meant to live in the outdoors. Not a glass cubicle with recycled air working as a wage slave.

  13. Help lift my mood for the day!
    My weekly therapy is heading down to the beach for a surf! It always recharges my batteries.
    Last week, I was dumped by this girl. Felt like totally shit, went to the beach and watch the waves for hours. I felt so recharged!

Comments are closed.