Do you experience mental pain and suffering from time to time? Most of us have those unpleasant experiences far more often than we’d like, so we search for a way to get rid of them. Here are several possible approaches.
First, we can try to suppress them. If we aren’t aware of them, they can’t hurt us. We aren’t necessarily consciously aware of shutting down and numbing ourselves to our internal state, but doing this is a common approach to stopping our experience of unpleasant feelings. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, it is very difficult to suppress pain and suffering constantly. It’s like holding a beach ball filled with air underwater. With enough effort and concentration you can do it for a while, but eventually you will forget and the ball will pop to the surface. As a result this is probably the least effective approach.
Second, we can cover them with some type of addiction. Addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. are all attempts either to deaden ourselves in order to stop feeling pain or to increase our endorphins so we feel good. Addictions can sometimes cover up our pain in the short run, but the long-term consequences of an addiction are usually far worse than the pain could ever be.
Third, we can try psychotherapy. Although there are many different forms of psychotherapy and most are very different from each other, almost all of them assume that pain and suffering are inevitable. As a result their goal is to teach you how to deal with them as effectively as possible. Luckily, some therapies can be very effective in helping us deal with our pain and suffering.
Fourth, we can turn to spirituality. A spiritual path has a lot of important benefits, but trying to transcend one’s pain and suffering to avoid dealing with it can be a trap. Being in a non-dual state is a powerful experience, but it does not necessarily change one’s experience as a “creation.”
Jack Kornfield, an American who spent years meditating in the East, writes how he experienced dissolving into white light and being at one with the universe and yet when he got home had the same relationship problems he left with.
If you don’t use spirituality as an escape from your pain and suffering, it can be extremely valuable. Realizing that you are something more than your body, thoughts, and feelings can be very liberating. Recognizing that you are a manifestation of something bigger than yourself can be very empowering. A spiritual practice only becomes a problem when you use it to pretend that it is sufficient to deal with the concerns of your “creation,” including pain and suffering.
As the philosopher Ken Wilber has pointed out, a spiritual practice is not a substitute for dealing with our day to day psychological problems.
Fifth, we can acknowledge that pain and suffering are not inevitable. They are the result of the meaning we give events. Once we realize that, we can dissolve the meaning, thereby eliminating our pain and suffering, instead of assuming they are inevitable and trying to cope with them.
As I’ve explained many times in this blog, events have no inherent meaning. As a result, events cannot make us feel anything. And if they can’t make us feel anything, events can’t produce mental pain and suffering. So where do our pain and suffering come from? The meaning we give both internal and external events as they happen.
For example, imagine you lose your job. It seems as if that event is causing you pain and suffering. It is not. If we experience pain and suffering it is the result of giving the event the meaning: This is a disaster. I will have a hard time getting another comparable job. That meaning would inevitably lead to pain and suffering. On the other hand, if you gave the same event the meaning: This is an opportunity to start my own business, or do what I’ve always wanted to do, or move to a different location where I’ve always wanted to live and work there, etc., the same event would lead to joy and excitement.
Suffering is not necessary
The common idea that human beings are born to suffer is nonsense. It is possible to fully acknowledge your pain and suffering, and then get rid of it in moments. How? Identify the meaning you are giving events that is causing the pain and suffering, and then dissolve the meaning, thereby dissolving the pain and suffering.
How to use this post to improve your life
For one week be aware every time you experience any mental pain or suffering. Don’t suppress it; experience it fully for just a moment. Then ask yourself, what meaning did I just give to an event that could cause what I’m feeling? When you make a clear distinction between the event and how the event occurs to you, the meaning will dissolve along with any feelings caused by the meaning.
This really does work. Try it for one week and then come back here and write your experience of doing this exercise.
For more details about our occurrings and how to dissolve them, see an earlier post: http://www.mortylefkoe.com/important-improve-life/#
Please comment on this post and write your results from the exercise.
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