Pain is Inevitable But Suffering is Optional
your pain does not define you – but the way you deal with it does
Life itself is incredibly intense and difficult even if we’re not going through a particularly hard time. But let’s face it, there are moments, sometimes hours when life becomes brutally hard and incredibly unforgiving. All of a sudden, you’re being hit by more than one life-changing catastrophe and you feel abused by your own existence. Nothing, absolutely nothing is okay and you have every right to feel confused, overwhelmed, horrified, powerless and completely out of control. In moments like this, you should know that it’s ok to feel that way. Furthermore, I think it’s pretty normal to go a little crazy when you find your life falling apart all at once. Crazy but under control.
When life becomes incredibly complex it’s normal to have terrible thoughts in the head about not being able to make it. Sometimes the pain is so intense and overwhelming that handling it becomes almost impossible. There are moments in life when your reality seems to be the worst nightmare you could possibly imagine. Except that this nightmare is your true reality which means that it will not end when you wake up.
But even if the situation you’re in seems to be a realization of your idea of what the worst-case scenario would look like there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. However, to be able to see that, you need to acknowledge and accept your pain.
Accept your pain and it will hurt less. Trust me, I know how it sounds. But the truth is when you keep resisting or fighting your true reality you cause more suffering to yourself. And let me tell you something, it’s not what you need when life is tearing you apart.
What you need in moments like this is to realize that you’re going through a phase that will end. The pain that you feel today will not last forever. That’s exactly what you need to repeat yourself like a mantra.
Accept your current reality and focus on what you can do in the present moment to make it easier to get through. Accept your pain and it will become “only” a part of your life, not your whole life. Because living a painful life and living with pain are two very different things. The first option, if we can call it that, is living in the mental prison of your own creation, while the second option is accepting that pain is necessary for growth and success.
Your pain does not define but the way you deal with it does.
This is how you can turn your pain into wisdom and wounds into strength.
5 Steps for Turning Your Pain into Wisdom
1. The Power of Acceptance - Freedom is a State of Mind
The first thing to realize when your going through a particularly tough time in life is that you have the power of choice. You can choose whether to accept or deny your pain. The first option will help you to focus on the meaning of your life, while the second option will cause more suffering that wasn’t even there.
It happens because suppressing, rejecting or ignoring problematic emotions only increases their intensity while acknowledging and accepting them can actually help to manage them properly. In other words, if you deny your true reality you create an inner mental prison which is not a nice place to live but if you accept the situation entirely as it is you immediately regain control over your life.
I realize it’s not easy to accept your struggle but that’s the only possible way you can turn your pain into power and positive growth.
There is this huge misconception about accepting pain. I’ve noticed that most people mistakenly believe that accepting a painful reality means surrendering or giving up when the exact opposite is true. Because it’s not acceptance but living in denial that makes things worse. Your pain will not go away only because you refuse to acknowledge it, nor it will become more intense because you acknowledge it.
When life hurts, the last thing you want to do is to accept it. I get it. But at the same time, it’s the only way to make sense of your experience and assign it meaning. Accepting a painful experience take all the pressure off of you and allows you to respond more mindfully.
2. The Power of Choice - Your Reality is of Your Own Creation
Did you know that you can control how you respond to things you can’t control? Sounds crazy, right? But what it really means is that you have much more control over your life than you think. Because even if you can’t change the situation itself, you can choose to change how you look at it and how you respond to it. Maybe it’s not ideal but still, it’s a great opportunity we all have.
When my father died from ALS earlier this year I thought that the pain I was experiencing would literally kill me. The first thing that came to my mind after receiving this news was: I am not going to make it.
I knew right then that the pain I was experiencing could completely break me or make me stronger. I choose the second option. I accepted pain as inevitable but I choose not to suffer. I made a conscious decision to even if I didn’t know what that meant at that time. All I knew was that my father’s death would completely change me and I wanted it to be a positive change. You cannot even imagine how desperate I was to find a way to turn this painful experience into positive growth and meaningful change…
If you’re still wondering why I am telling you this it’s because I want you to know that if you’re going through a particularly tough time right now, don’t give up. You can turn your pain into your power and wounds into your wisdom. You can turn even the worst life experience into something positive. Because even the most desperate situations still procure opportunities to grow. But you need to be mindful to see that.
3. The Power of Mind - Your Mindset Determines Your Entire Life
We create meaning. Yet nothing has meaning alone. We create meaning and we bring it to life. Things are just ordinary items and people are just random social beings before we give them a specific meaning. That’s why our interpretations of the seemingly ‘same’ thing are so different.
We perceive the world through our five senses, which by the way deceive us all the time, and then we create stories and narratives to get a better understanding of “what’s going on here”. Then with our ability to think, analyze and reason we create meaning behind these stories to make sense of what we perceive. Nothing has meaning alone, we create meaning to be able to navigate our life.
What is really interesting here, is that this meaning-making process we engage ourselves in serves directly affects our state of mind and personal well-being. This happens because the stories and narratives we make up to describe what we experience can trigger pleasant emotions like joy or happiness or unpleasant feelings like anger, fear or sadness. As pleasant emotions tend to not harm even if they have nothing to do with the real situation (the present moment) the trouble starts when your dramatic storytelling creates negative emotions that cause suffering that wasn’t even there at the beginning. Most of us are unaware of how our storytelling affects our mental state. We create our own reality with our thoughts, words, and emotions.
We love happiness and hate pain but the truth is life is full of pain and we need to accept this to be able to live a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life. Besides without sadness, happiness has no meaning. Without pain, life has no meaning because personal growth is always painful and extremely uncomfortable. Painful struggle and unpleasant experience make us who we are.
They say that in life “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”. And I truly believe that. Because pain appears when we have experienced something traumatic but suffering is the fruit of our storytelling. And the truth is that sometimes we suffer unnecessarily because we identify ourselves with our pain instead of accepting it as an essential and inevitable part of life. The painful experience you’re going through is a phase that will end.
Remember that gold is purified by fire.
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4. The Power Of Now - All we have is NOW
Going through a particularly hard time and facing a personal tragedy can make you feel lonely and isolated. At times like this, we tend to think that everyone except us has a nice, quiet and happy life. But the truth is that bad things happen to everyone. We all struggle. We all experience horrible moments in life that make us question the sense of our existence.
Life spares no one. We are all fighting our inner battle. We all struggle. And believe it or not but most of us experience pretty much the same stuff during our lifetime. Sounds crazy but here are some life experiences that everyone ‘must-have’ like having a disease, losing someone we love, having a life-threatening experience, realizing that our lives are completely out of control or even experiencing heartbreak.
Do you want to know what’s connecting these things? Their common denominator is PAIN. And you know why? Because life without struggle and pain would be an empty and completely meaningless existence with no possibility of growing and evolving as a person.
Pain is an indicator designed to help you challenge yourself in ways you may not have thought of before. So instead of feeling sorry for yourself, playing a victim card, comparing your pain to someone else’s pain be mindful. Focus on your experience, stay in the moment, observe your pain without judging it. Let yourself feel your emotions instead of ignoring or suppressing them. You have to feel it to heal it. There are no shortcuts to happiness and success. Besides without pain and sadness, there can be no happiness and pleasure. Because we create meaning and make sense of our experience by comparison and contrast. We search for similarities and differences to discover how people or things are similar and how they are different. We recognize happiness as a “lack of pain” and sorrow as a “lack of joy”. This is the way we make sense of what we experience daily.
5. The Power of Letting Go - Change is The Only Constant
Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope. Everything changes, nothing stands still. Every moment you go through in life good or bad, happy or tragic, is just a moment, not a permanent state. Every feeling, emotion, state you experience will pass because the only constant in life is CHANGE.
Sometimes when something incredibly beautiful happens we try to write everything down or create a mental picture to keep track of time. But when things become hard, overwhelming and almost impossible to deal with we try to avoid painful emotions at all costs denying our true reality. While it’s a normal and understandable reaction to a painful situation, it definitely does not help to manage tough times.
So what can you do instead? Well, in my opinion, the best thing you can to get through hard times is to realize that you’re going through a phase that will end. The pain that you feel today will not last forever. The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.
So if you are facing a personal tragedy and your world is falling apart know that it will get better. You will get better. This moment will pass. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Accept your pain as an inevitable part of life. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling depressed, anxious, terrified or in pain. Don’t fight with your emotions because you will lose. Face your fears. Accept the pain you feel in the moment and it will hurt a little less. And remember that the pain you feel today will not last forever.
Life is not linear, it’s rather a sine wave with a series of amazing highs and disastrous lows. Everything changes, nothing stands still. Even the hardest moment in life will pass to make space for more beautiful moments.
Life is the best teacher. Some lessons are more difficult than others but every single one of them is important and much needed. Harder lessons are designed to challenge you and build upon your knowledge. And believe it or not but the most valuable lessons are drowned from the worst circumstances imaginable. When life knocks you down, you can choose to stay hopeless in the dark or rise up and regain control over your life. Choose the second option!
We all become an advocate for something we did not choose but I was imposed on us by life. But we can use this painful experience for positive growth. You can turn pain into wisdom and wounds into strength. We can speak our truth and make a difference.
Your story can save other people’s lives.
Stay Strong and Be Patient because “The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.”