Updated: Oct 6, 2021
I can sit here and spew all the self-care ways we can try to ease our suffering. But I have a feeling you know most of those. I’ve tried them all in my many attempts to take the pain away, and stop the self-sabotaging cycles that come from trying to numb out emotions. They are helpful in some ways, but not in others. Because it still has us seeking ways to avoid pain, as if pain is something that we shouldn’t be feeling; a foreign object to be fought and pushed out.
We all suffer.
As human beings on this earth, part of God’s plan was to include some suffering.
It doesn’t feel good. We get panicked and overwhelmed and angry and depressed. Our lives feel like they are out of control. Maybe it’s from illness, financial hardship, children who are suffering, ailing parents, friends pushing you out, unmet expectations, or addiction that has it’s hard grip on you.
If you live on planet earth, you have and will have suffering. None of us are immune.
And we often use it as an excuse to do whatever we feel like, listening to our primitive brain, which is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain as much as humanely possible. We turn to things that give us immediate gratification to ease the suffering— TV, phones, food, Instagram, Facebook, drinking, pornography, and other addictive and potentially addictive substances. We all turn to versions of these things in one way or another. But with excessive use we begin to see a net negative effect of our actions. Unwanted weight gain. Poor sleep. Loss of connection in our relationships. False pleasure, joy, and happiness. We begin relying heavily on these external sources to provide relief, or numb away the pain—unable to internally because we’ve never learned to or been taught how.
But our suffering is compounded by this idea that we shouldn’t be suffering. In a world filled with luxuries and comforts, even the slightest step out of the comfort zone leads us to believe something has gone wrong. Our lives are less than. We aren’t living life to the fullest. Our lives should be different than this. We want to step back in our bubble of comfort to what we knew before.
We see the people around us living happier, more fulfilling lives. They aren’t bogged down with troubles and woes and illness and a desire to buffer away the pain.
Our brain immediately finds evidence we are suffering, and it shouldn’t be so. We push the suffering down as much as possible. We resist it. We don’t allow it to be there as if it’s supposed to be. It’s a foreign object invading our life and we are desperately seeking the antidote. However, the false antidote we find is only making us more sick, and causing more suffering.
But what if we were willing to allow suffering, without making it mean anything is wrong with our life? What if suffering is a natural part of the human existence? Pain, discomfort, sadness, anxiety, despair, regret, anger... it’s all part of it. And when we continue to try and push these away, resist them being in our lives, react to them in self-destructive ways, then we are giving all our control away to the external world to come save us.
What if we just got good at allowing suffering? What if we allowed pain to be there, and stopped trying to make it go away? Stopped believing that it shouldn’t be there?
Because pain is part of life. Trauma and illness and death can’t be changed, and our current thoughts around those areas are only causing more pain to rear it’s head in our life. Bad things happen. Bad things will always happen. Bad things will continue happening in the world, to our loved ones, and to us. But what is the upside to thinking that they shouldn’t happen? That something has gone wrong? That people shouldn’t do bad things? That cancer shouldn’t exist? That spouses should be faithful? That we shouldn’t get fired? That kids should listen? Because when the opposite happens, we create even more pain around our pain, by believing that it isn’t normal— that these things shouldn’t happen. And we continue to hide away and push our pain down, and spiraling our suffering to exponential heights.
Suffering hurts, and it’s ok that it does. Really it is. Suffering is uncomfortable, and maybe it’s supposed to be. Maybe God has a greater plan than we could ever realize, and suffering is part of that plan. I know this is true personally, because I know God hates watching us suffer, I know He could take it away if He wanted, but He doesn’t. So I know there’s more to it than just allowing us to sit in pain without reprieve.
What if the secret out of suffering is to allow it, freely? What if the secret out of suffering was looking at how we’re choosing to perceive our suffering? What thoughts are we choosing to think about our pain, our trials, our struggles? Are we adding to it? Are we allowing our feelings to be there? Are we taking responsibility for how we feel, instead of shoving it off onto the external environment, and the world and people around us?
We can’t always choose our circumstances. We can’t choose how other people show up in the world. We can’t always choose what life throws our way. But we can always choose our own outcome. And it all starts with what we are creating with our thoughts around it.
We act from emotion. I want you to stop and think how you act when you’re feeling despair, worry, anxiety, fear, anger, etc. What actions do you take from these emotions? Do you try and avoid them? Do you wallow in them? Do you eat, drink, binge on TV, sit on your phone, take drugs? Do you snap at your spouse, yell at your kids, do a crappy job at work, spiral in thoughts that don’t serve you?
Now, how do you act when you feel peace, hope, relief, and true connection? Really think about it. I know I definitely show up for me, I have my own back, and I show up for my loved ones. It isn’t necessarily easy, because suffering is still there. But it’s doable. When we find peace and hope around our suffering, it becomes less painful. It doesn’t go away, but that’s not the point. Remember, suffering is part of the human existence. It isn’t going anywhere. But it’s muted. It becomes gray instead of black. It becomes a dull pain instead of a sharp, stabbing one. We are able to function through it, and take care of ourselves. We can find motivation to keep meal planning, trying to get enough sleep, getting to work on time, and loving on our family just a little bit more.
This is what happens when we let go of the idea that suffering shouldn’t be happening. That something has gone wrong with your life because there’s pain around our past or our present or an unknown future. We can take care of ourselves. We can step out of the cloud of suffering on top of suffering. We see how capable we are of moving forward, even with some discomfort hanging around us. Because friends, nothing has gone wrong because we are suffering. And we are beyond capable of handling whatever comes our way.
***Want support and guidance as you work through your struggle? I would be honored to be your coach and your safe place to share your story, and navigate your pain. Click below for a FREE session!
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