As a doctor I come across patients everyday with all sorts of ailments, physical and psychological. Suffering, pain, resisting their illness or resisting self care. Pain is something we all feel but don’t really talk about. I’m sure quite a few pain specialists will agree with me when I say this: One very important aspect of pain management is the psychological part. Resisting pain and questioning just makes things harder on oneself. And overfocusing on the pain leads to guess what, more pain.
We humans have learnt to seek comfort and run away from danger. We flee. We flee from everything these days: emotions, physical ailments, stress, loss of a dear one, difficult relationships… What will happen if we hold on for a minute, feel the chaos, let the pain wash over us, feel that damn pain, dwell on it and really feel it in our bones? Well, it will be the worst feeling in the world (that’s why we try so hard to run away from it!), won’t it? Hell, yeah… but then, amidst the wave of emotions that come crashing over you, there comes a point…of total silence. A lull amidst the chaos. The eye of the storm. A ray of hope. The survival instinct kicks in. Then you’re like “You know what, this sucks. It sucks to be me right now. I hate it. It hurts…But you know what? It is what it is. This is the reality, and I will do everything I can to what’s best for me. I’m actually OK. If I can deal with this, I can deal with anything. I will pull through. It will be all be OK.” There you have it: Acceptance.
Acceptance of the pain (emotional or physical) is key to the healing process.
No one is spared of pain in their life. Sometimes we look at others and their seemingly perfect lives baffles us. How can others have it so good? Why do they have a great life while I have to endure so much pain? What have I done to deserve this suffering? Social media is one place where others’ apparently awesome life is nothing but a mirage. Others seemingly have perfect relationships, perfect vacations, better jobs, a picture perfect life. But what we need to realise is that people choose to show us the good parts and cut out the negative parts to project a certain (skewed) image to the world. We mostly do not openly share our pain, our failures, our insecurities with the world. We have to look perfect, to perform, to be looked up to, to be validated, to be accepted, to be loved. Being vulnerable does not always equate to these things and we choose to bury everything inside.
So if everyone hurts, what can we do about it? Most of us have the classic fight, flight, freeze reactions. People try numbing their pain with food, Netflix binges (junkfood + marathon TV shows anyone?), alcohol, cigarettes or other addictions… We try to escape our issues. We feel angry and take it out on others, sometimes without even realising what it is that triggered us. There should be a better way.
It is primordial to understand that pain is a mere reality of the human condition. There is a quote that goes “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Buddha´s teachings on suffering are invaluable. He acknowledged that our life is painted by not only joy but also sorrow. Having Buddha tell us it’s normal to feel pain (or hurt, anger, irritation, etc) is extremely freeing.
Thus, the best we can do is exercise Acceptance instead of resisting the pain.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Non resistance is beautifully illustrated by this quote from Toni Bernhard (in her book How to Wake Up: A Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow).
“Byron Katie says: You can argue with the way things are. You´ll lose, but only 100% of the time. I kept losing and losing and losing … until I finally stopped arguing and acknowledged my life as it was. Just that acknowledgment eased the mental suffering I was experiencing.”
She goes on to state:
“[Suffering] arises when we resist a painful emotion instead of accepting that this is what we’re feeling at the moment. Acknowledging the presence of an unpleasant experience is itself a moment of awakening because it’s a moment of gracefully engaging our life as it is for us right now.”
Not resisting pain but instead exercising acceptance and telling ourselves, “Hey, I know it sucks to be in pain right now. Yes, it´s so hard. But you know what, it´s OK to feel like this. I allow myself to feel these feelings right now.”
This week, try to notice the times you feel pain or hurt and try to practise Acceptance & Non Resistance of the situation. Embrace the situation as it is. This shift in consciousness has a transformative effect on our thoughts and behaviour.
Note: By Acceptance I do not mean it´s OK to feel like a victim of your situation. Neither does it refer to staying in a dangerous or life threatening situation (such as someone trying to harm you).
Until next time,
Love, light and all things bright,