…Almost every one of us had asked themselves that question at least once: Why am I suffering? After all, life seems to always be brutal, cruel and downright unfair. Why would good people suffer day and night when they have done nothing to deserve such pain? Why do many people get completely fed up with their lives and lose their will to live?
To answer this question, I’d like to mention a quote that I personally love and relate to very much. It’s by the renowned Japanese author and inspirationalist Haruki Murakami:
“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”
To keep it simple, everyone experiences pain in their lives, and to varying degrees. That pain takes many shapes and forms; starting from childhood traumas like bullying, isolation, non-acceptance, and all the way to emotional abuse, broken hearts, loss, being broke, or even feeling that you cannot go on living. So, it needs to established and accepted that everyone no matter their age, sex, demographics, location or circumstances, experiences pain to some degree. The pain may even start the moment we open our eyes to life, and can last all the way to death. In other words:
Pain is what happens to you, suffering is how you react to it
Below, is my 5-step formula of identifying and eliminating suffering:
Step 1: Accept your pain
In order to free yourself from any kind of suffering, the first and probably the most important thing you can do right now is to accept your pain. Now, you’re probably asking, what does it even mean to accept my pain? How can I accept something that’s making me feel miserable? And what happens if I refuse to accept that misery?
Firstly, you need to eliminate the association between pain and suffering, as we noted earlier in the earlier quote and as we will elaborate later in the post, the difference between pain and suffering is the difference between day and night. Accepting pain does not mean that you will accept suffering, in fact, accepting pain is the first step in freeing yourself from suffering. In other words, pain and suffering are not the same thing, and the sooner you accept your pain, the sooner you’ll be able to end your suffering once and for all.
Now you’re probably asking, what happens if I refuse to accept my pain? Well, most people who are living in misery, are people who essentially refused to accept and embrace their pain, they simply found many ways to lie to themselves and deceive their minds into thinking that they’re ‘okay’. Those people either denied the existence of any sort of pain altogether, or acknowledged its existence but refused to accept it, which often leads to a lot of complaining that life is unfair, and little to no real action to eliminate that suffering.
Step 2: Identify your pain
Now that you’ve accepted your pain, it’s time for you to identify your pain. Identifying your pain simply means getting a firm grip on the real reasons and root causes that are making you feel that way.
Many people have successfully accepted their pain, but they have trouble identifying it. Those people may either be simply aware of what’s causing their pain but are too afraid to confront their fears and face them one-on-one, or they don’t actually know where their pain comes from.
To make this easier, you need to sit down with your own mind, relax, contemplate and often go a little back in time to the root cause of your pain. More often than not, you’ll find that the pain you’re feeling today is simply a building up of emotions that haven’t been resolved since years and years back in the past. Surely, there is no time machine to get you back in time to resolve those emotional traumas or simply prevent them from happening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eliminate that pain, in fact, if you face those root causes after clearly identifying them, you have a much bigger chance of being able to resolve whatever emotional residue you’ve been carrying on your shoulders for years.
Step 3: Get in control and avoid complaining.
In my opinion, this is the step where many people mess up. Because, you may very well be able to accept then identify what’s causing you to feel pain, but it’s actually much harder to take the driver’s seat of your life and claim control at that point.
Many people, who are living in a constant suffering, can and are people who have already accepted and identified their pain, however, their suffering could be largely a product of them not being in full control of their lives. To make things a little easier, many people simply refuse to accept responsibility to anything and everything that happened in their pasts, in fact, you should always accept responsibility even for events that weren’t completely under your control.
Now, I know you’re thinking “Why should I hold myself accountable for the pain that others had caused me when I’m the real victim”. The thing is, by thinking that way you’ve successfully placed yourself within the victim card cycle; which is basically blaming everyone else for your pain, believing that you’re the victim of other people and/or circumstances, then feeling self-pity for yourself which ends up making you feel totally out of control of your life or anything that happens to you.
The problem with the victim mindset is that it traps you into an endless vicious cycle; in fact, research has shown that constant negative complaining literally changes the physical nature of your brain, essentially rewiring it into a cycle of more and more complaining which has really no end. If you’re serious about freeing yourself from the chains of suffering, you must accept responsibility for your life, take control, and avoid complaining like the plague.
Step 4: Refuse to be defined by your pain and suffering.
An important yet often overlooked step in overcoming suffering is being unable to distinguish between you and your pain. Many people, who have suffered through their pain for a considerable length of time, often have their vision blurred to the difference between themselves and their pain. In fact, many people have a hard time telling the two apart. It’s mainly because they have associated their ‘emotions’ with their ‘self’, thus the two becoming one in their mind.
If you do this, you’re essentially denying any possibility of you existing a part of your pain; in other words, it’s your brain being programmed to associate everything you know about yourself with what’s causing you to suffer.
For example, many people live in misery because their brains have associated themselves and even their personalities with feelings like sadness, loneliness, mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, and substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and other drugs. For those people, they simply believe that they aren’t capable of existing without their pain and that it somehow defines them.
That in turn, places a major obstacle for them in overcoming pain, treating mental disorders, or kicking a dependence or addiction. In order to pave the way for yourself to eliminate suffering,
It’s imperative to draw a clear and distinguished difference between you and your pain, and training your mind to think of the two separately, thus believing that you can and will exist without the emotional baggage you’re carrying with you.
Step 5: Overcome your pain, and eliminate your suffering once and for all.
This is the last step which often proves to be a little tricky for many. On this step, you’ve basically accepted, identified, and embraced your pain, then you’ve assumed control and responsibility of your life and past, and you successfully distinguished between your pain and you. Now, what’s next? The next and last step is actually overcoming your pain, and that can be achieved via many different ways.
The difference between the dream and reality is only one thing: action. This is the time when you ought to take big action to act on your dreams and aspirations about the perfect life. Now that you’ve taken control and trained your mind to believe it’s possible and feasible to live beyond your pain and traumas, it’s time for you to take action based on such a mindset.
Taking actions can be all sort of different things: finally quitting a bad habit, seeking professional help for mental health problems, breaking a toxic and soul-sucking relationship, distancing yourself from friends and/or family members who’re directly or indirectly bringing you down or not helping you grow and prosper, quitting your unsatisfying job to pursue your dream career or business, and may even be setting yourself off to travel and explore the world.
You know, I might give you a thousand examples, yet the one that will truly relate to you is your task to find. Because after all, you are the one that’s the most familiar with yourself and it’s intricacies. After identifying what sort of action that you’ve decided to take, it’s important to:
Step 6: Repeat the process
I wish I could tell you that ending suffering is a one-time goal, but I can’t, or otherwise, I’ll be deluding you. That’s primarily because life is not linear, in other words, life never goes from A-Z in a continuous fashion. In fact, life is always going like a zigzag line, which is actually helpful to you since it’s healthy to experience the downs in order to better appreciate the highs.
So, the point here is, every once in a while you may need to repeat the process from step 1-5. This might be due to you falling back into your old habits, losing motivation, or engaging in a self-defeating behavior. Or, it can also be due to a new experienced pain that you need to start tackling as soon as possible.
On the brighter side, the more you repeat this process; you’re actually reprogramming your brain into certain patterns of thought which in turn, reduces the time and frequency of you having to repeat this process all over again. Also, you have to remember to always be gentle on yourself; if you fall once, you can and will get up again. Don’t beat yourself up for little failures, but instead, remind yourself of how many times you’ve withstood the storm…
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By Ismail M Taher
Ismail is an novelist, blogger and entrepreneur from Cairo, Egypt. Since a very young age, Ismail has been described as an introverted old-soul who is passionate about arts, philosophy, travel, business and most importantly, leaving an impact in life. At the age of 18, Ismail wrote and published his first mental health novel ‘Cherophobia’, and later the same year he switched majors from medicine to study something he’s deeply passionate about, business. Ismail created this blog to help everyone on their pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and inner peace. He is currently residing in Egypt, with big goals of traveling the entire globe. Beside this blog, he’s currently working on both fiction and nonfiction books. You can learn more about him and/or get in touch using the ‘About’ section of the website.