Overcome Pain And Suffering
“Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labelling it mentally. Embrace it.” — Eckhart Tolle
I want to ask you a series of questions, which I hope you are comfortable answering to yourself. First, how do you react when things don’t go your way? What emotions do you experience? Is it anger, anxiety, fear, or other negative emotions? What is your inner dialogue during these times? More importantly, how do you comfort yourself when you feel this way? It’s a given; life will not always go the way we expect. Unfortunate situations will arise and we must deal with circumstances we haven’t experienced before. This can be difficult because we fear we cannot handle what is taking place.
But that is only our initial reaction, and things are likely to change as we move into the unknown. Our negative emotions matter because they help us make sense of what is taking place in our life. The key is to feel the fear and do it anyway, as author Susan Jeffers states in her self-titled book. For instance, psychologist talk about getting comfortable with discomfort and uncertainty. This is not as easy as it sounds, unless you’re a Navy Seal, Green Beret or Commando. These highly decorated special forces are known for operating in difficult environments and dealing with discomfort and uncertainty. But for many of us who are not trained like these individuals, inhabiting our discomfort zone can be frightening.
So, what is the purpose of being comfortable with how things are? It means we experience less stress, pain and suffering because we accept life as it is instead of wishing the situation was different. In fact, it is something I often see in my coaching practice with individuals. Many people experience pain and suffering and want to learn how to overcome it. They believe I will show them how to change the situation and are surprised to learn, I help them change the way they look at it. Invariably, they learn to confront their pain and change their perception of what is taking place, which turns down the volume on their suffering.
How To Overcome Difficulties
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” — Maya Angelou
Are you comfortable with this understanding so far? Could you entertain the idea that life’s circumstances are not the root cause of our pain and misery, but it is how we interpret them? Because if I were to take a population of people and expose them to a difficult situation, each person would interpret it differently. So, we either change the circumstances causing us pain or we change our response to it. This is the essence of what author Michael Singer captures in his latest book, Living Untethered: “One of the most amazing things you will ever realize is that the moment in front of you is not bothering you—you are bothering yourself about the moment in front of you. It’s not personal—you are making it personal.” Granted, sometimes, we cannot change our external conditions, and this is when we must change our response instead of internalising the stress.
Let me be clear here and say this in no way underscores what is taking place in your life. So, if you are facing difficulties with your employer or intimate partner, it requires acknowledging your emotions. However, to suggest this person or condition is the only source of your suffering is unwise because there could be something within you triggering the pain. It is about walking a tightrope between balance and discomfort. Because stress can actually be helpful to our nervous system, but being exposed to too much stress tips us over the edge. To get comfortable with the way things are requires understanding our emotions instead of resisting them. In some respect, we must befriend our emotions.
Here, befriending means making time to listen to our emotions and understand what they are trying to convey. In most instances, negative emotions are protective parts we have neglected. Therefore, when we come home to ourselves in an authentic and compassionate way, we open the door to healing and integration. We let go of judging what is taking place and consider the lessons contained within the experience. I often repeat this throughout my writing because I believe it to be true. Trying to find meaning is subjective, based on our level of awareness. Every person will attribute a different meaning to their circumstances. However, the lessons learned from our difficult experiences are what we ought to place a value on most.
So, could you do this? Could you allow yourself to get comfortable with the way things are right now, even if you don’t like it? Could you welcome your anxiety, anger, fear and other difficult emotions? Are you willing to learn something true and authentic about yourself through these emotions? I assure you, when you decide to show up for yourself in an authentic and compassionate way, you transcend any difficult experience. In fact, you invite these powerful emotions to join with you in a way you never thought possible. I’ve gone through the process myself and welcomed anger, fear, hurt and judgement frequently. What is more, I’ve coached hundreds of people to see how their difficulties contain opportunities for personal growth. It requires changing the way we look at things, instead of perceiving life through a single focus.
Considering this, I invite you to answer the questions I asked you in the opening paragraph. If you’ve been following my work, you will know I frequently ask questions in my work because there is tremendous value through self-enquiry. This is a powerful tool because you become your own therapist (healer), instead of relying on others to give you the answers. Equally, self-enquiry is not a replacement for therapy but a compliment to it. When you work through your problems on your own, you become resourceful and develop self-belief and self-esteem. This is the point of self-development: working through our problems to grow into the person required to overcome them. Ultimately, if we want to get comfortable with the way things are, it requires setting aside our beliefs on the way life should be and accepting circumstances as they are. As we do, we open the door to transformation and allow life to show us who we need to become to transcend our pain and suffering.