How to embrace suffering and use it to transform our lives
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
When we're in the midst of suffering, the very last thing we want to think about is what suffering can do for our life beyond this current experience. We're busy trying to escape it or even trying very hard to accept and move past it. But keeping in mind what the surprising gains of unavoidable suffering are and how we can get through it, is very helpful. I have laid it out here in two parts: the first, the processing, the second the opportunities and things gained. Hear me out, okay?
PART ONE: PROCESSING
It's nothing personal... some things are unavoidable while others are our choice
I think the first things we can think when we're suffering, is why me? I've not done anything that would warrant this experience. It feels unjust. But there comes real strength with admitting that some things are unavoidable. Importantly, it doesn't have to all be on us, most of the time it isn't. I think in these moments, we do need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. For some they find it in God but even knowing that the universe out there is a mysterious force beyond comprehension is a good start.
I think we can be pretty self-centred as a species thinking that the bigger things we don't understand cannot be real. Even excluding my religious or spiritual views, knowing that some things are inevitable but what we do with it is ours will always help. The choice really is ours.
"There is nothing so stable as change" (Bob Marley).
As humans we crave certainty. We want to feel safe. When we have it, something new always comes knocking. Then we feel suspicious of safety. This is not to encourage constant worry of change but like all things there needs to be a balance. Uprooting is a normal part of life. Don't forget this includes the bad times too! They will also end. Enjoy the best moments but don't cling to the old you, people or even certain circumstances. There is a loss but what follows is the beginning of something new.
"Don't hold together what must fall apart. The familiar life crumbles so the new life can begin" (Bryant McGill).
Feel the feels
If it hurts like a b*tch or the feelings are so strong it feels like it will escape you, then just FEEL IT. Don't build a house, plant a garden and throw a party but just acknowledge that anyone would be struggling with this and that's okay. As tempting as it may be, we must not avoid or ignore them.
We don't have to do this alone
We are not superheroes! We cannot do this alone as much as we sometimes want to. I am not sure why so many of us have this mindset of having to brave the storm alone. Maybe its because we're the one experiencing it, so it can be hard to imagine what it would do to ask for help. But trust me, IT DOES. It's not about creating a solution, but somehow when we have support and love from those who care about us, it makes it much more bearable. You know what they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
PART TWO: WHAT IS GAINED
Experience the highs more deeply
The fruit tastes sweeter when you've tasted bitterness. That is a fact. If we've been eating sweet fruit all our life, we cannot appreciate its sweetness. Because that is the norm. Somehow we reach new higher experiences in life when we've felt the worst of it too. And I think that is a price worth paying.
You decide what it means and what it will fuel
Feeling the spectrum of different emotions and experiences in life gives us something to work with. So use it as a channel for a muse or art. It's really nothing fancy but we decide what to do with this experience. For your passions, for growth of a new part of you or for other people.
There's nothing like a little pain, to find strength we never thought we had. Just when our knees are about to hit the ground, and we think this is too much to bear then somehow a new strength is unlocked from somewhere. This new discovered strength will help us in our life, to reach unimaginable heights.
Empathy and compassion
Suffering and pain gives us something that fine cruising in life won't give you. Empathy and compassion. The experience of being able to empathise with someone and give them your compassion is one of the best experiences in life. It connects us with people. This trial we got through, gets us through that exclusive door.
Well, good luck. I hope after reading this you have gained a new perspective on this period of your life. I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes:
“Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle" (Wilma Rudolph).