In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the way to handle and overcome suffering.
First a quick update:
**** “Women want it all but can’t – children, husbands & marriages suffer” – Arguments surrounding women who want it all have focused on the corporate world, claiming that it and men should shift so that women can have greater careers, so women can be more successful at work, and juggle a family and a career. But few people consider the impact on children, husbands and families when women decide they want it all. Listen to the interview and discussion between myself and Dr. Vicki Panaccione, child psychologist, as we explore the impact women have on child development and the challenge between being a mother and feeling fulfilled as a woman: http://patrickwanis.com/RadioInterviews.asp#womenwantitall
Now, let’s talk about suffering and how to handle it and overcome it.
Psychiatrist Phil Stutz and psychotherapist Barry Michels are authors of the bestselling book, “The Tools”, a self-help book based on Jungian psychology and philosophy. In an interview with actor John Cusak, Phil Stutz says:
“There are three laws of reality: One, uncertainty, it never goes away. Two, pain, it never goes away. Three, the need for constant effort and work never goes away. People don’t like that.”
These three simple sentences offer great wisdom: everything changes, there is always pain in life and we need to work towards whatever it is that we want to achieve in life. And the last sentence “People don’t like that” explains a major cause of suffering in life: most people create even more suffering by refusing to or being unable to accept the realities of life.
The dictionary defines the word “suffer” as: to undergo, be subjected to, or endure (pain, distress, injury, loss, or anything unpleasant.)
Bad and unpleasant things happen to everyone; no one can escape them. Even the rich, famous and powerful people experience pain and loss. Actor and Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone lost his 36-year old son, Sage this week and said: “When a parent loses a child there is no greater pain… This agonizing loss will be felt for the rest of our lives.”
Suffering is a part of life; it is part of the human condition. Everyone will experience suffering.
There are two forms of suffering:
- Unavoidable – Decay and separation
- Avoidable – Human desires
“Decay and separation” is a part of inescapable suffering, caused primarily by loss – the loss of youth, health, friends, loved ones and so forth. It is about aging, disease, bodily decay and death. It is something over which we have no control whatsoever.
“Human desires” refers to the cravings of our mind and emotions, and it is something over which we have much more control – if we choose to do so.
Create their own agonies
When they allow
Their desire, greed and hatred
To turn the fiction in their minds
Into the reality of suffering.
(The Tao is Tao, 79)
Simply put, all of our suffering derives from our relentless and crippling attempt to seek permanence or constant control in life – our inability or refusal to accept change and our battle to control things over which we have no control and are truly powerless. We refuse to accept that our bodies age, that we grow old and frail, and therefore we expend so much energy trying to look young, only to find ourselves wallowing in self-loathing, misery and rejection of who we truly are. We seek to control our world and even the universe, again refusing to accept that we have no real control over our universe. We can influence our world but we cannot control it; we can influence our universe but we cannot control it.
Common responses to bad and unpleasant events include: “Why? Why me? Why did this happen to me? I am not bad or deserving of this suffering…” Or, we seek to blame someone else or something as being the cause of our tragedy.
Either response leaves us suffering even more than before when we cannot find an acceptable answer about why bad things happen or why we lose someone or something we love and accordingly blame and judgment leads to resentment, anger, cynicism, hatred, vindictiveness or revengefulness.
The result is that we wallow in our self-pity, and we become useless to others or ourselves and we easily end up with a life that is wasted and full of suffering. And when suffering becomes our identity, we transform and become a permanent victim – losing all of our power.
Most religions focus on the theme of suffering and it can be argued that the belief in God is driven or founded as a way to ease humankind’s chronic anxiety and suffering, granting us power by having faith in God and the belief that something better awaits us after death.
At the core of almost all religious teachings (East and West) lays a similar answer about how to handle suffering – letting go of resistance and accepting suffering – our actual response to the things that make us suffer can reduce or increase our suffering.
“Pain is not absolute. When you move toward it, pain shrinks…the more intense the pain — the more you move into It — the more energy you create.”
- Phil Stutz and Barry Michels
“When pain brings you down, don’t be silly, don’t close your eyes and cry, you just might be in the best position to see the sun shine.”
- Alanis Morissette
We need to experience suffering to overcome it; we cannot resist it, deny it, hide from it or run away from it. We also cannot resist it or force it to end or dissolve in a matter of moments or days. There is a grieving process and we need to feel the emotions for there will always be loss in life. However, our suffering is exacerbated and extended when we offer resistance – when we refuse to accept what is; when we refuse to surrender to what is.
“What is” refers to the unavoidable mentioned above – the decay and separation.
“What is” also refers to our mind and emotions – we will have desires, hatred and greed – but when we respond to our mind and emotions in a way that fuels or acts upon those desires, hatred or greed then they overcome and control us while also failing to fulfill us. Hence, the many empty, unhappy and lost people that we see swimming in all that the world has to offer but drowning in misery and pain from a deep void of the soul.
There will always be change; nothing remains the same. But we can find solace, comfort and even freedom when we embrace courage and discipline; when we develop self-expression and deepen our creativity; when we accept our human imperfection and; when we seek meaning beyond the physical by also finding purpose, by experiencing joy in life and joy in giving & serving others.
We overcome suffering when we are flexible and open; when we surrender and become fluid as water.
Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.
(Tao Te Ching, 76)
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist