Suffering Has Taught Me Who I Am
Suffering has taught me who I am. It has helped me get to know parts of myself that I hadn’t seen before or that I hadn’t wanted to accept. I had always thought that hopefully nothing bad would happen in my life, but I realize that wishing for that is wanting something impossible.
We have all suffered, for the most part. We have gone through different circumstances that have left their marks on us. Circumstances that we would prefer not to have experienced, but that we know are impossible. Life is not tinted in rose for anyone, although for some, within the same circumstances, it is less harmful than for others. That is the key.
Instead of focusing on trying to live life without suffering, we should learn to experience suffering in a different way. Learn to use it to grow and to build ourselves up again and for this, it is often necessary to develop different skills in the safe space of therapy.
It is not a matter of avoiding suffering, but of learning to integrate it into your life story as one more chapter that has led you precisely where you are.
Therapy as a safe space
Psychological therapy must be understood as a safe space for all those who go to it. In therapy, you are not judged, there are no absolute truths, and everything that is said remains private under professional oath. This secret can only be broken if the patient is going to harm him or herself, others, or through a judicial order.
Furthermore, therapy is a place to establish a secure foundation that will give you stability, even if your life has been difficult. In order to do this, psychologists – together with the patient/client – try to build up a therapeutic alliance as a sure connection on which to base the therapy.
This unique connection, if it is well established, allows a climate of confidence to be consolidated. This climate makes it easier to treat all of the fears and the suffering that are hidden in them, because before acquiring the skills to face these issues, allowing us to take step towards treating what is causing the suffering, we have to have enough trust to be able to speak about it without fear.
It is often not a matter of exposing oneself to fears, but of having a strong foundation so that we can walk with them.
Giving suffering a name
Giving suffering a name does not consist in using diagnostic labels. Many times, we cannot even use one of these labels because there is no name for our particular experience. Sometimes the cause of our suffering is so unique or so mundane that it does not have a name and we have to give it one.
That name may only have meaning for the person who is giving it, and that is enough. It may be my dark side, it may be nerves, it may be my shadow, or it may be whatever you want it to be. It is a name that is going to be used in the therapeutic environment to define something unique to you, and as such, something so individual that, although it may have a common name, it will have a unique meaning.
Giving a name to suffering helps define the problem that lies at the heart of our torment and thus to be able to change or integrate it.
Once it is named, that suffering will take on a new meaning. It will go from being an entity, a feeling, to being something clearer. Something that has taken shape and thus can be explained and understood both by the psychologist and by the patient. As such, it is something that can already be changed or integrated.
Integrating the experience into a new me
When the cause of suffering is something that happened in the past and can no longer be changed, the best way to overcome it is to integrate it into your life story. This is not something easy to do, but it is also not impossible.
To integrate it, we have to accept it. We have to accept that no matter what happened, feeling guilty now serves no purpose. It is also not helpful to place blame on others because the past is the past and it can no longer be changed. The work demanded by that integration, that acceptance of suffering, is great. But we have to let the bad happen and accept it naturally in order to build a new us.
Building yourself up again is a large step, but a step that leads to accepting that dark side that emerges from within you. You will no longer feel a void full of pain or you will fight against your inner demon. You will have built yourself up and you will have learn that what happened made you who you are today.