Pain vs. Suffering: A Path To Healing

There is a difference between pain and suffering… Which one seems worse to you?  Most people say, suffering and I would agree.  The difference between pain and suffering is that those who suffer are unwilling to accept the reality of their pain.  They are stuck in denial, wishing, or choosing not to, or not allowing themselves to feel the pain of their situation.  They ask questions like, “why is this happening….how could he/she do that….” or say things like, “this can’t be possible…this can’t be happening…its not fair…. no, no, no.”  People who are suffering don’t allow themselves the opportunity to feel the pain of their situation and as a result they don’t allow themselves the opportunity to face, or deal with the pain at hand.  So they carry the pain of their situation around with them and as long as they refuse or are unwilling to acknowledge and face their pain, they will be stuck in suffering.

Radical Acceptance is a process of fully facing, turning toward, and embracing the reality of your pain.  When you radically accept your situation, what you are left with is just PAIN.  And yes, pain is painful… Pain sucks.  But pain will run it’s course.  By allowing yourself to face the reality of your situation and fully embrace the reality of your pain, you will feel pain, but pain won’t last forever and certainly not as long as the experience of suffering.  When you can face and embrace the reality of your pain, you are giving yourself permission to grieve and feel the feelings associated with the painful situation and this is the path toward healing.  By radically accepting your situation it does not mean you are agreeing with the pain of the situation, and it doesn’t mean you are liking the pain of the situation and saying that it’s ok…No.

Most people fight painful feelings.  After all, who wants to feel like a bag of sh** anyway?  But sometimes you have to let go of “being strong,” or being “perfect,” or being something other than what you are in the moment of pain…. Sometimes this requires you to be humble to the fact that you are human and have emotions and aren’t always perfect, and aren’t always right, or strong, or ok, or….

We all have our down days.  We all have vulnerabilities.  We all get hurt and have painful experiences in our lives.  And we all have some emotional injuries from the past.  Some things we have a harder time facing than others.  So I challenge you to be honest with yourself about the things you are most threatened by, your deepest fears, that your ego works so hard to protect you from most of the time.  I challenge you to acknowledge those things that perhaps you have been carrying around with you for a long time that you don’t like to face and that you know you would benefit from facing.  Write them down somewhere private.  And when you have the opportunity, I invite you to sit with the feelings associated with your fears, or vulnerabilities, or emotional injuries that you carry and mindfully observe, describe, or engage with these emotions for five minutes.  Name your emotions.  Invite those feelings into to your heart and give them permission to be present with you for a short while.  Honor those feelings the same as you would take time to honor the dead and the feelings associated with the loss of a loved one.  This is one way to help you process the very things that may be holding you back or that may be motivating you to behave in ways that are not serving your best interest….

When I first learned about Radical Acceptance, I was reading the book: The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama.  And in this book, there is a story of a man who was in great pain after loosing a loved one.  He went to the local Shaman and begged for help to find a way to not feel as badly as he did.  The Shaman told the man he would have to find a special and rare mustard root and bring it back to the Shaman.  The man went on a journey through the village looking for this rare mustard root.  He went to one home and asked if they knew where he could find this rare herb.  The people asked him why he was looking for the root and when he explained the reason, the members of the household shared their own story of pain and loss that they experienced, but they did not have any suggestions or knowledge as to where he could find the root.  The man continued on his journey and went to each and every home in the village seeking help to find the root.  Upon his return to the Shaman, he had not found one.  When the Shaman asked why he returned empty handed the man explained that he had searched everywhere and asked everyone and couldn’t find the root.  But the man also explained that he no longer felt as deeply sad as he once did because he came to realize that with every person he spoke to, he was not alone in his experiences of loss and deep pain.

My wish is that you allow yourself the space and time to be vulnerable when you need it, and that you find comfort in knowing you are not alone.

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