You may have heard the expression “Pain in inevitable but suffering is a choice.” Do you know this already or are you objecting strongly to this statement? Regardless, keep reading.
When you are in a state of pain, each of the four Earth bodies suffer, regardless of where the initial wound or impact happened. The physical body suffers illness and death of cells. The mind becomes agitated and forms wrong perceptions and the emotional body is disturbed by the emotional state of upheaval. This in turn affects your karma, and the effects ripple through your soul.
Healing happens as humans are gifted with homeostasis, a natural balancing device. Suffering is how we slow down or counteract homeostasis through stories we tell ourselves long after the injury happened “to keep the painful sensation alive”.Viktor Frankl, a Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist, was sent to a concentration camp during World War II with is mother, father, brother, and pregnant wife. Only he survived the horrific deprivation and degradation to which they were subjected. He later said that the only thing the Nazis were unable to take from him was his choice as to how to respond to the trauma.
After the war, he studied the psychology of Holocaust survivors and wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” He later said that he made a conscious decision to focus his energies on “owning” the space between the stimulus (whatever was said or done to him) and his response to it.
The psychology of pain is the interpretation or meaning we give to the pain signal. It is the internal self-talk and beliefs about it that drive our emotional reactions. Suffering results from mental and emotional responses to pain. The good news is that since we created that suffering, we can eliminate it too. How? By becoming aware of that self-talk and changing to one that is more empowering.
We cause our own suffering
Many people refuse to admit that they are responsible for their own suffering. Since Frankl, other researchers discovered that we do cause our own suffering. Why would we do that?!? Because there is some benefit to it. Of course it is usually a subconscious, warped benefit, but a benefit nonetheless. The suffering can be carried on because of pride, righteousness or as an excuse to not move on to the next step because that step brings you into the unknown.
Below is a fairly comprehensive list of the inner stories people use to create their suffering:
1. Fear: “I am scared of the unknown. I would rather not try this new job. What if I don’t like it?”
2. Doubt: “I am not sure I can trust that you are a true artist (or teacher, or doctor), therefore I cannot make a decision.”
3. Comparison: “So and so always gets more attention from the teacher than me. I guess she doesn’t like me.”
4. Poor me: “Bad things always happen to me? It is so unfair. You have to help me. I just can’t do it myself.”
5. Denial: “I have a drinking problem? What are you talking about! I’ll tell YOU who has a problem!”
6. Perfectionism: “I will never be able to get the job I want; I only had an overall average of 82% on my French my test.”
7. Living in the past or future (regrets and fantasies): “If my father had not been so ill when I was a child, I would have been able to….” OR “We will be much happier when we get married and have a child.”
8. Blame: “My neighbour treated me badly. If you were not such a softie with her, she wouldn’t dare act like that with me.”
9. Hurt: “It hurts when you do or say this to me.”
10. Holiness: “I only connect only with people of my type; those who don’t have my level of vibration are not good enough.”
11. Expectations: “I should be more assertive to get a better deal on my car.”
12. Demands: “Be the way I want; otherwise I cannot connect with you.”
13. Love: “I keep this job only because I want to pay for your university fees. I do it because I love you and because getting a degree is what is best for you.”
14. Evasion: “I am not sure what you want. I don’t understand.”
The ultimate story, one that humanity inherited and has transmitted down through the generations is that “I am not OK, 100% lovable, as I am.” This is the root cause of all duality, separation and problems in the world, from wars between parts of the self, between men and women, countries and religions, to pollution, to world hunger and so on.