Pain is an inevitable part of life. And while I would rather do without it, I must admit many things that caused me much pain also promoted much growth. But SUFFERING…now that’s something different. Suffering is extended pain. Suffering can last a long time. Suffering is a state of being. AND...suffering is a choice.
I heard a spiritual teacher once say: “Suffering comes from the story you continue to tell yourself about the pain you encountered. Pain is usually a moment in time, but suffering goes on experiencing that pain.” I agree.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self this. I doubt I would have “got it” back then. I was too identified with my pain. But the older, wiser me knows how true it is. However, if I could, then I would tell myself this…"the pain you’re experiencing now is valid. It’s understandable. And it hurts. But how long it hurts is up to you". I would ask “What ‘stories’ am I telling myself that are prolonging the pain? What ‘meaning’ have I given to events and circumstances that cause me to continue to suffer?” I would get very honest...trying to see where I might be embracing a “victim mentality” keeping me stuck in a state of suffering. Then I would ask myself, “How long do you want to stay in this state of suffering?” I wish I could go back and tell my suffering self that I could CHOOSE to end the suffering. It's possible to do so. In spite of pain and fear. Instead, I'll tell you. And I'll re-remind myself at the same time.
Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Much harder to do. But I know from experience that I can end my suffering by simply choosing to do so. It takes practice. It takes commitment. It takes a firm decision. It takes a level of self-awareness and trust in the process. But it’s SOOOOO worth it.
I had a client the other day who had a health scare. It caused her a great deal of anxiety in the moment. Thankfully it turned out to be a false alarm. For about 15 minutes there was horrible stress and anguish. Totally understandable. Who wouldn’t be freaked out? But here it was 3 months later, and she was still having loads of anxiety about it. It was affecting her everyday life. At this point, she had no symptoms. She had been cleared on all fronts. Everything in the “outer world” was A-OK. But the “inner world” was still in turmoil. She continued to play the “what if” game, asking disempowering questions instead of entertaining some even MORE LIKELY, less worrisome "what ifs". The stress she encountered from that event was now just a memory yet months later she's bringing her past into the present moment thereby worrying about the future. SUFFERING.
What are you continuing to suffer from today? Is it something from the past? Is it the unknown future? Decide how long you want to remain in that state of mind. Although I still have situations that cause pain or worry, I’ve managed to reduce if not eliminate a state of suffering which formerly would've been an accepted part of the equation. It doesn’t have to be. Pain and suffering don’t have to be synonymous. They don’t have to be partners in crime. By choice, you can make them mutually exclusive. Taking the following ACTION STEPS will help you accomplish this…
When you're suffering for one reason or another, decide how long you want to remain in this state and realize you have a CHOICE.
2. Examine what has caused you pain and notice if it's still present in real-time or is it merely existing as a memory that feels real? There's a difference. The way to clarify this is by answering the question "Is it physically happening right here, right now or is it happening in my head?" Or is it an unknown future?
3. Identify what "stories" you're telling yourself that are contributing to your suffering. (See Arrow Tip #5)
4. Notice what "meaning" you're giving to events that have caused you to suffer.
5. Change the worrisome "what if?" questions to more empowering ones.
6. Clarify areas you're holding onto pain by maintaining a victim mentality and take your power back.
7. Make a solid choice that despite the pain you may be in, you don't need to give it the power to make you suffer.
8. Stay committed to that choice by remaining aware of your thoughts and feelings and make the appropriate adjustments to stay in a growth mindset.
*Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE!