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Pain Is Inevitable. Suffering Is Optional

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Pain Is Inevitable. Suffering Is Optional

Everyone goes through hard times. We all know that feeling, you’ve been made redundant, or someone close to you has died, or relationships break.

No matter what happens, there are bound to be times when we feel pain and suffering in life.

The difference between pain and suffering, though, is that with pain, we feel it immediately, sometimes intensely and then it naturally passes through us. Not so with suffering. When we suffer, we hold onto our pain for longer than necessary. We hold onto it because in a weird sort of way we enjoy the pain, because we’re lost in it, or even because we think we need it.

Suffering is the decision to keep eating the chocolate, even when we feel sick. Or to hold onto the jealousy we feel in our chests, instead of talking about the issue with our partner. It’s ignoring our true selves.

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Are you stuck in a cycle of suffering right now, and you want to get out?

Let go of the judgments around your pain.

You already feel bad. Worrying on top of this with the thought about how someone else might see you is a sure-fire way of holding onto that feeling for a lot longer than you need to. Bear in mind that we all do this at some point in time.

Some people set about organizing things at a fast pace, some just need to watch TV and snack all day long. Whatever it is you need to do, let yourself do it. And don’t torture yourself for it, either.

Give yourself permission to grieve.

Yes, we all feel pain. We all get rejected. We all lose someone. It’s a horrible fact of life. There’s a myth that constant positivity is possible just by changing your thoughts. It’s not. Phew. Now you can stop trying to be perfect – the pressure is off!

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Sometimes doing a simple body scan can release and move emotions in a gentle way. This mindfulness exercise always has me bawling within minutes if I feel like I need to cry, or shout, or laugh, but can’t quite express it any other way.

You’ve had a hard time, so cut yourself some slack.

Easy, don’t think it’s a big deal. If you think wanting to stay in bed all day for once and eat six chocolate bars is a big deal, that you will automatically become obese and depressed because of this one day where you needed some time out, you will not feel a lot better. So, cut yourself some slack – you’ve had a hard time. Maybe this is just what you need right now… and that’s ok.

If it’s the opposite: if you are suffering because you know deep down that you want to be out there experiencing the pain of running at 7 am, instead of the suffering that comes with procrastination, then don’t worry about it (but maybe do some exercise later!)

It’s normal to feel the pain you’re feeling.

Remember – most of all, that it is totally NORMAL to feel this pain you are feeling. Pain is a part of your workout and without it, you don’t get stronger. This is the same for creating art and devoting yourself to something or someone you love. It doesn’t mean you stop doing those things.

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If it’s really bad, knowing it’s normal doesn’t help. Just because a million people have been through it, and a million more are likely to, does not make it any less intoxicating, all-encompassing and, well, painful, in that moment you are feeling it. You are entitled to know that your pain is your own. And it is deep. No one else experiencing anything similar can take that away from you.

Relax, you have the choice.

Just relax! If you find yourself tensed up and in pain, there is nowhere for it to go. And there is also no way of you knowing what to do next. If you’re tensed up and stressed out, you can’t think clearly.

Relaxing doesn’t mean you can change the situation that brought you pain. But at least you have the choice to change what’s going on for you right now.

Life will always bring us pain, but we get to choose the type of pain we experience. Letting go of suffering means we can move through pain and maybe even one day feel something different. But for now, allowing yourself to feel the pain is enough.

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I hope this post has helped just a little bit, at least in seeing what pain and suffering really are, what to do about them. We all deal with pain in different ways. And when you’re in it, it’s like you can’t see the sun. But don’t worry – it will come up – it always does.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

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Daniel Owen van Dommelen

Coder, Director, Writer, Human

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