Pain versus Suffering, Part 2
So, my ribs are broken in five places, one spinous process is chipped and my collarbone is broken in 7 places. Good job! In my prior post I was discussing the difference between pain and suffering. There have been some moments of pain. More my ribs than my collarbone. Sneezing and coughing are pretty intense with broken ribs, as is lying down and sitting up. Pain is present in some moments, but it will pass. There have also been moments of suffering. This is where I got lost for a while in “unhappy stories” in my interpretation of what this means in my life.
The part of me that can feel suffering might sound like this? *It’s nor fair, I am strandedat home. I can’t drive for six weeks. It’s impossible to cook. I have no income and a mountain of bills. I am going to be bored witless and isolated. I am immobilised in this silly sling and can’t even type properly! It’s quite normal for these thoughts to arise in us. Very human. When we suffer, we exaggerate our situation in the negative and use dramatic words and phrases to describe our situation. We can cling to our suffering and view our situation entirely through this lens. Negative thinking (*) may play over and over in our head. There is a choice. It’s what we DO with our thoughts and feelings that defines our experience of life. As a psychotherapist I attempt to the best of my ability to practice what I teach. So my process looks like this:
- Allow the thoughts and feelings to be there. Create some time and space to just FEEL the sad, lonely, frightened parts arise. If I try to repress them or ignore them or avoid them, I am only delaying their re-emergence.
- If there are tears or anger, allow it all to come out, but do it with curiosity and presence. See if I can have a part of me aware of what I am feeling rather than being lost in it. eg. “Oh, look, I am feeling isolated.”
- Is this “isolation” a new feeling or a regular pattern in my life? What is isolated for me? Not seeing some-one for 6 hours or 3 days? What does it mean if I am isolated? Will I starve or feel unloved or go mad?
- Allow myself to speak from the experience of the part that feels isolated, knowing that this is just one part of me, not my totality. I am not judging the ideas or feelings attached to isolation, as being silly or childish. Watching with interest. “If I don’t have some-one to talk to for over 24 hours, I feel like the silence swallows me.”
- Aha! In this case, there is a strong prior experience with silence. Silence in my household as a youngster was very uncomfy. There was a “silent war” of many years in my household between my parents, so I associate long silences with uncomfortable feelings and isolation.
- Recontextualiuse the situation. OK. Lets ditch the isolation idea and see what else it could be? A time of deep rest and recharge. Self nurture. Time for more meditation, baths, deep sleeps, reading, a bit of a life review. I can ring friends and invite them to pop in for a while – no rush, time to really connect when they arrive. I get to deeply experience my preferences for how I choose to spend my time right now. Oh lovely.
- If the same old negative thoughts try to re-emerge and they possibly will, this is where the real work begins. Shall I choose to believe that story and feed it by building it in my mind and feelings or will I practise a new way of being. OK, we know this rubbish and it’s false, lets go for a walk now or do some meditation.
When the practice above becomes a normal way of experiencing life, there is much less of a tendancy to get stuck in suffering or to be there as long. Gratitude becomes the default experience. Instead of looking for the lack or the wrong, there is a filter that says, “Yeah, what will I learn about myself within this challenge.” Long silences, no longer have to equate to isolation and loneliness. I am onto this now. So many different challenges and solutions resulting from the broken bones; I can now open tight jars by using my knees as a grip and my strong hand as the opener. And it’s child like fun! A step out of the ordinary. And I have rediscovered the joy of eating with my hands. Somehow the food tastes better. The cultures that do this are onto something. I AM typing one handed and it’s not that much slower……
I am soooo blessed. A feeling of fullness bubbles up inside of me.