Pain is an event that inevitably all humans experience at some point in their lives. Challenging life experiences are not uncommon, however, they can be very debilitating. It is important to define two specific and different ways we experience adversity. In this case, we will look at pain and suffering.
Brains tend to create some very unnerving thoughts when experiencing challenges and difficult times. You may ask yourself, “Is this ever going to end?” or “Do I want to live with this for the rest of my life? If this is my reality, do I even want to live anymore?” What heavy pain we must feel when thinking this way.
Let’s take a different approach to address suffering. I want to examine another more constructive approach to take our pain and heal from it. With this approach, we can resolve our pain and transform our suffering into purpose. To achieve this, we first must notice exactly what the difference is between pain and suffering.
Pain is an actual event that has happened to us. Pain is a very real event that can cause immense struggle and hurt. Specifically, pain may come from losing a job, somebody suing us, or possibly physical ailments, like cancer.
Suffering is the story in our heads about what happened. Essentially, that inner voice that asks all of the unhelpful questions that make you feel even worse is the root of suffering.
If we are suffering, it is our responsibility. This is a harsh but immensely powerful truth. We have control over our reaction to our pain which means we have control over suffering. This is not easy but we are capable and responsible to end our suffering. This is wonderful news!
I want to examine a very powerful experience of pain and how a woman turned her painful experience into her life purpose. Candy Lightner started the grassroots organization, “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” following her daughter being killed by a drunk driver. Can you imagine opening your front door to a police officer telling you that your child has been killed? This is real pain.
Candy could’ve sat stagnate, ruminating in suffering. She could have spent her energy asking “Why did this happen? Did I deserve this? Am I being punished?” This is the path of suffering. Instead of adding stories to her pain, she decided to focus on solutions. This group had a huge impact on getting drunk drivers off the road. She found an outlet to heal pain and proactively did something to help herself and others. You can remember the pain and move forward.
Focus on solutions to make it better. You could join a support group. I highly recommend seeking help from people who can relate in a way to what you are going through. Many solutions exist.
The pain of losing a child is enough. It is not helpful to follow the path of suffering and ask questions that prevent healing. We have pain, how do we reduce this pain right now? Look at our thoughts and try to compare them to physical pain. If you have a bruised hand you wouldn’t take a hammer to it and continue to beat it. The same goes for psychological pain. Allow yourself to feel that hurt, acknowledge its existence, brainstorm solutions, and give yourself the grace to heal.
Looking at another example of pain, if you have lost someone you love, it may be time to study impermanence. Fighting life makes us suffer. If we expect to never lose those we love, we will suffer. On the other hand, if we realize and become grateful for the time we do have as well as the ability to love then we will not only reduce pain but eliminate suffering.
Our approach to reducing pain is to proactively do things to alleviate it. If you don’t know what to do then the focus will become finding an option to explore in an attempt to heal your pain. That is what we focus on, not “Life is so unfair, I don’t deserve this.” These are valid questions, however, they keep us stuck. Chose to have the thought, what is a solution to my pain right now? The answer may turn into something so powerful you help not only yourself but you may also help many others heal who have experienced something similar.
When you focus on solutions the pain will heal. However, if you stay stuck in mental suffering it will fester. You may be thinking right now, “I will never get better. I will never be happy again.” Human existence tells us otherwise. This is not true, you will get better if you want to. History tells us that humans experience pain and heal from it, constantly.
Fighting life makes us suffer. The trick to healing is focusing on solutions that will make it better. You may think otherwise but I can tell you with confidence taking an active role in trying to get better will help you get better. There are endless examples of what pain looks like in this world. Denying its existence is futile but accepting the truth of its inevitability and choosing an active role in healing is key.
I will never say the suffering questions your mind creates are not valid. I am however saying to instead ask the question, what can I do right now to make it better? It’s not about what happened. It’s about what we do about what happened. Life doesn’t have to go a certain way for us to be happy. Sometimes, the thing we lost, the pain we endure, is exactly the inspiration we need to find a passion, something we truly want to do.