Hello! Seiiti Arata. The suffering you are feeling now is optional. You can decrease your suffering right now, just change the way you think about your pain. And even if it just seems to hurt you, the pain you feel is not entirely negative, as the pain may be warning you of something important that needs to be changed.
Suffering is a low-conscious state of mind. When you become aware that unwanted and unforeseen events are also part of life, you automatically decrease your suffering. Ignoring the existence of the unwanted is a low level of awareness. Attachment to the desire for things to be different makes it difficult to accept reality. This causes much more suffering than necessary.
To stop suffering and move on with life, it is first necessary to know how to deal with pain well. So let’s see how to prepare ourselves to face painful situations and reduce our suffering from new ways of thinking.
We will all suffer from pain and unwanted moments at different times in life.
First of all, you need to be clear that life is full of unwanted events that will cause pain. This is a state of high consciousness.
Loss is a major cause of pain. For example, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or the loss of an object.
The arrival of something unwanted also causes pain, like the arrival of an illness, the arrival of an economic crisis, or even the arrival of that person that you hate.
Unpleasant situations are those that we do not want. Therefore, one of the ways to have less unpleasant situations in your life, is to let go of desire. If you are less attached to wishes that things are different than they are, you will face less suffering.
Why is it important to be clear that life is full of unpleasant situations? This clarity helps you to accept that some desired events will not happen. And some unwanted events are going to happen. Something good can cease to exist. And something bad could arrive.
To stop suffering, we need to know that something unwanted will come sooner or later. It is human nature to feel pain over unwanted events. Human pain has to do with not accepting reality.
But we don’t need to be angry at our pain. Often, pain is useful to signal something important that deserves our attention and that we have to remedy. For example, if you feel a pain in your heart, this is a useful sign that you should see a cardiologist to check your heart’s health. Without that sign, you could neglect yourself and suffer a heart attack that could have been prevented. The problem is to exaggerate the perception of pain or feel the pain for longer than necessary and let it turn into suffering.
There is a better way to deal with these unwanted situations. We have to prepare in the best possible way. We can see the unwanted as a challenge to overcome. And for that, we need to develop and learn to deal with pain well.
However, we often do the opposite. Instead of handling pain well, we amplify the pain. And so, we bring more suffering to ourselves.
We suffer when we don’t accept reality.
Suffering increases when we do not accept reality. For example, we don’t accept reality when we say, “This can’t be happening to me! It is not fair”, or “This is wrong! This shouldn’t have happened”.
When we encounter an unwanted event, we first experience denial. Denial is an attempt to escape reality or not accepting reality. However, denial does not work to change reality.
The reality does not change because of our denial. And when we realize that denial has not improved reality, anger comes. Anger comes when we start to complain, curse, escalate nervousness in the face of the unwanted situation. However, anger does not work to change reality.
As the anger didn’t work either, hope comes. We hope that somehow things will change and improve. However, hope alone does not work to change reality.
As hope didn’t work either, disappointment comes. We feel emptiness, sadness, a feeling of helplessness. However, disappointment does not work to change reality either.
In all these phases, the intention was to try to deny, to escape, to fight the pain. We try to protect ourselves with different approaches to not accept reality. However, not accepting reality can make our pain worse.
Without knowing how to deal with pain well, we can make our situation worse. For example, some people say they drink alcohol to forget about problems. However, problems continue to exist and alcohol addiction can be an additional problem.
The right way to deal with pain well is to face reality head on.
You are only ready to move on after accepting reality.
First, let’s feel the pain and understand what signal the pain is transmitting to us. Pain can be useful, as long as we know how to deal with it well. We need to hear the message that the pain wants to send us. We need to accept and feel our feelings. This is normal and healthy.
Only after going through the natural process of coping with pain can we move on, leading a happy and healthy life. This is what we detail in interactive practices within the Happiness course.
You must not run from your feelings. It is quite common to try to suppress pain and negative feelings or to be afraid of experiencing anger or sadness. However, by suppressing, we are making the recovery more difficult.
Recovering from traumatic events and overcoming unpleasant feelings requires learning. We need to learn to deal with what happened without creating trauma. The reinterpretation of events and emotions also helps so we can become a more mature and strong version of ourselves.
For example, if I suffered a traffic accident that was someone else’s fault, I need to go through the pain phase and maybe even anger. But it is unhealthy to let these feelings take on a disproportionate intensity or to relive this accident for several decades. At some point in the recovery process I need to move on with my life.
The key is to accept reality. Acceptance means that you stop trying to deny your reality, stop resisting. And with that acceptance, you don’t create frustrated expectations.
True acceptance is a gift that you give to yourself. Do not confuse acceptance with approval or forgiveness.
Acceptance does not mean that you approve of a situation. Acceptance does not mean that you want everything to stay the same. Acceptance is also not synonymous with forgiveness. In the traffic accident example, you do not necessarily have to forgive the person who caused the accident. But you certainly need to accept what happened and move on.
To understand the meaning of acceptance, you can see it is a process that you do alone, just in your head. It is a gift that you give to yourself, so that you can deal with reality better. That is, to make acceptance, you don’t depend on other people. Above all, the acceptance process is important for you to benefit from your happiness.
For example, if I have been the victim of an injustice or abuse, I can actually carry out acceptance only in my head. That is, I don’t need to go to the point of forgiving the other person. I can simply accept that the injustice has occurred. And so I will go on with my life, without being stuck longer than necessary in the feelings of suffering.
I am prepared to accept when I realize that it no longer makes sense to continue to spend so much time and energy reliving all these painful emotions.
To know how to stop suffering, acceptance is simply that you don’t resist what you already are. This denial of reality is something that intensifies our suffering a lot.
For example, if I have lost a loved one, I cannot do anything to reverse the situation. After respectfully going through the mourning phase, I need to realize that life goes on. I would be creating additional suffering, a second layer of suffering if, in addition to the loss itself, I refused to accept reality and put up resistance to it.
Acceptance also does not mean that you want everything to stay the same. Accepting is different from giving up or being passive about an unwanted situation.
We need to act to achieve our goals. And in order to act, we first have to accept reality through observation. You cannot act to change things without first observing and understanding things as they are.
Because of all that, we can say that acceptance is powerful. Try it. Choose a fact from your life that you have refused to accept, something that is making you feel pain and anger. Once you accept the reality, you will find that the anger tends to subside. That’s how you become stronger and get on with life. The painful situation loses strength.
The opposite of being passive is being active, taking responsibility to modify reality as much as possible. That’s what we’re going to do now.
To stop suffering, take responsibility. That is how we can abandon passivity and take action.
The reactive posture is one that just says that the problems in our life are caused by other people. We look for who to blame: we blame other people, the government, companies, the climate… never ourselves. And in this way we don’t realise the actions that we can take to modify the reality and the results that we reap. This is having the responsibility that will help to stop suffering.
When we don’t act on something, that something acts on us. Whenever you are suffering, a very useful question is: “What am I falling victim to? I am failing to act on something. What is this something that is acting on me?”.
These questions help us to gain clarity about our own condition. The reason we put ourselves in the role of victim is that we can feel that our circumstances are difficult to overcome. If the problem I have is huge, I feel small and unable to do anything about it.
For me to take responsibility, I can examine the problematic situation, separate it into multiple smaller pieces that are easier to control. And so, step by step, I start solving each of the pieces that are manageable. I keep my head in the present moment and solve one thing at a time.
It is not events that bring suffering, but the meaning we give to those events.
Suffering comes from the subjective meaning we attach to events. Events have no objective meaning in themselves. We are the ones who give meaning to events.
For example, if I had plans to sunbathe… and it starts to rain. Rain is an objective event and has no meaning in itself. For me, rain is a cause for annoyance because I can no longer carry out my initial plan. However, for a farmer in the region, rain is a cause for happiness. I have a different subjective interpretation from the farmer. The same event brings suffering to me and happiness to the farmer.
Since the event itself is meaningless, I can use my mind to change the meaning I give. And so, I decrease or just end the suffering.
Whenever you notice a negative emotion such as anger, frustration or sadness, seek clarity. What was the event that started this negative emotion? What was the meaning you gave to the event? Realize that the event is one thing, and the meaning you have given is something else. Do not confuse them.
It is necessary to identify thoughts that are not useful. This clarity helps us decide: we can either replace these thoughts with better ones… or we can simply dismiss these useless thoughts.
Meditation helps to have the clarity to observe and perceive events in a more objective way and to understand that we are the ones who create the meaning. Watch the thoughts in your mind, it will be helpful. Use the practice we talked about in episode 158 of the Hello! Seiiti Arata series on how to observe without judging.
In the Happiness course, we have practical activities for you to train your ability to cope well with pain. This is a valuable skill that can be learned and improved.