by Ruchir Sodhani– Mental Health Counsellor/Therapist at Rukmani Birla Hospital in Jaipur
Read Part 1 on what causes emotional pain.
The ‘compounded interest’ of pain
Suffering is the discomfort we feel as a result of being in pain.
However, suffering can have a substantial ‘second-order’ or indirect component.
The indirect component is the pain we feel about being in pain –
- The sadness about being sad
- The anxiety about being anxious and indecisive
- The misery we feel about being unlucky or the past
- The regret, guilt, or shame we feel about being helpless, weak, or inactive.
This kind of suffering can be shattering and paralysing.
It can make us lose our own sense of identity (what kind of person are we?), capabilities (what kind of things can we do?), belonging (where and how do we fit in?), and confidence (is it even worth trying to do something?).
Feeling hurt about being in pain and suffereing can imprison us or break us as a person and make life hell for us and can prolong, intensify and cement pain and discomfort into our life.
It allows pain to become the ‘director’ of the movie of our life. It is this suffering that many spiritual traditions consider to be avoidable or at least manageable. It is this suffering that we can choose to consciously work upon and reduce.
This is a choice we can make repeated efforts towards. These efforts can make our lives more enjoyable, flexible, playful and happy. It can make us kinder and more forgiving towards ourselves and others.
Making suffering less necessary
Suffering is an unwelcome experience, but it can shape our personality and perspective.
It can change the importance we grant to achieving specific things, goals or values in our lives.
It can liberate us from the mirage of self-importance, the relentless importance of goals, an unhealthy compulsion for perfection, and the idea that we can separate and banish the thread of pain from the weave of our life.
Seeing suffering in this way can allow us to be more accepting of ourselves, our limitations, and our failures.
Feeling hurt and going through a lot of suffering is also likely to make us more sensitive to other people and their suffering.
It is crucial for us to realise the compounded effect of suffering (pain about being in pain), and accept our own power to stop it from multiplying. Then, we may be able to respond more light-heartedly to unpleasant or traumatic events.
It is said that ‘Pain may be unavoidable, but suffering is optional’. An even better way of putting it is – ‘Suffering is necessary until it becomes unnecessary’.
As we learn the insidious nature of suffering and our ability to slowly build our ‘emotional muscles’, we can refuse to allow suffering to control our decisions and lives.
Whenever we spot an opportunity, we can practice working on our response and slowly move towards making our suffering less and less necessary.
It is not magic! YOU CAN DO IT with practice, patience, and kindness towards yourself. Just like building up any skill. One step at a time.
The path and process of recovery, healing, and building expertise and confidence are also very personal.
We may have to experiment, try out various things, and choose a set of tools that suit us, our situation, our personality, and our preferences.
Tips to Get Started on our healing journey –
1. Understand suffering. Refuse to pay ‘compound interest’ on your suffering!
2. Limit repeated thinking and analysing. ‘Doing’ is our mantra!
3. You cannot think your way out of suffering. Ask your heart instead, not your head!
4. Let go of the past and of perfection. If lost in thought, just do whatever you can ‘right here, right now’.
5. Enjoy an ice-cold drink, a hot cup of coffee, a flower, a chat, or a cool breeze in the face of suffering.
6. What things, activities, people, or choices have given you joy in the past? Do it again.
7. What can I learn from my own past successes or those of people I respect? Replicate some of that.
8. Savour, praise, and celebrate each of your small mutinies against suffering. However small. Every day.
9. Whenever we can remember, let us do what we can … “One day at a time!”
10. Re-establish and nurture connections – to your body, dreams, friends, work, nature, and your values.
11. 5 minutes is better than zero. 10 is better than 5. 1% better is better. Put yourself in first gear!
Now you know how to deal with emotional pain. Start moving towards dealing with it.
So, how are you going to start right now?
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Ruchir works as a Mental Health Counsellor/Therapist at Rukmani Birla Hospital in Jaipur. He believes that ‘sometimes we need a little help’ in rediscovering our confidence, wisdom and humour, and in managing our lives well. So, when in trouble, find someone to share with!