The Anatomy of Suffering

January 17, 2017

Suffering can crack you open deep beneath your skin and still remain unseen. It’s like it lives inside you, traps and asphyxiates you, but sooner or later you’ll be able to overcome it. Because the strongest souls rise up from adversity, with skin thick and hardened by an infinite number of invisible scars.

At this point, your soul might already be showing an entire map of scars and mended wounds. Because of this, you’ve also learned that pain and suffering are two very different things. Pain is a part of existence, and it appears when you lose something you love. Suffering, for its part, comes from not accepting what happened, resisting, and wanting things to be another way.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

-Buddha-

However, even though we’re told that suffering is a part of human existence, you should keep a few things in mind. First of all, it’s not necessary to suffer to know what life is. In fact, happiness can also teach you important lessons. 

Secondly, the fear of suffering is much worse than suffering itself, because it prevents you from living. It causes you to put up walls and barriers against your right to love and be loved, to make mistakes and learn from them. These are important details to remember. But let’s look at this subject a little deeper. 

scraped hands

Suffering and the urge to run away

Suffering arrives like an unexpected guest on a cold winter night. You don’t want it there and you decide to run away from it, hide it in the basement and act like it’s not there. Afterwards, you hide away in your rusted armor and feign normalcy, putting a placid smile on your face while the pain is still there, clawing at your injured heart with its cold hands.

Whether you want it to or not, this negative emotion will persist with its damaging heaviness for a long, long time. In fact, this is because it has a very clear aim: to consume your energy and keep you quiet, to accept it and understand what’s happening to you.

It’s interesting, but just as molecular biologist Estanislao Bachrach explains, the brain doesn’t care if you’re happy. It doesn’t care at all, because in fact, the only thing it wants is for you to survive. Therefore, understanding the roots of your suffering is an act of personal responsibility. Of survival.

bandaid-holding-flowers

Real and imaginary suffering

Psychology makes a clear distinction between real and imaginary suffering. Both consist of a negative emotional weight that directly interferes with your quality of life and emotional balance, but:

  • Imaginary suffering is a negative interpretation of your own reality. You create true internal battles, incredible storms full of unfounded obsession and anguish over external events.
  • In real suffering, pain, confusion, loss, and disappointment are concentrated on a reasonable cause. Something concrete has triggered this state.

When it comes to eliminating these two types of suffering, you can use the same coping techniques. We’ll explain them below.

Should We Forgive the Abuser to Overcome the Pain?

Awakening dormant strategies

You already have them. Believe it or not, we all have the best strategies within us to face suffering. So much so, that you won’t be surprised to know that the brain is biologically prepared to face adversity through very specific mechanisms. These strategies, defined below, will help you survive in a much better way.

“In a life without pain, the strings of the soul eventually relax.”

-Johannes Kepler-

First of all, you’re going to wake up that inner eye located in your mind. You have to understand that reality, your reality, is simply a personal interpretation that you believe, which can sometimes hold you captive. It’s time to look at it through a different filter:

  • Extinguish the fears and obsessions that chip away at your character, your self-esteem, your self-concept. All real suffering has a lot of imaginary suffering attached to it: “this is never going to change,” “I’ll never be happy again,” “there are no second chances…” Turn off this unnecessary mental noise and control your thoughts to create new emotions.
rainbow on hands

On the other hand, you can reduce your “undeserved” suffering as long as you are aware that it’s temporary.

  • Pain causes you to cling hopelessly to the present so that you can understand your wounds, learn from what happened, and continue to survive. Life goes on, whether you want it to or not. The law of impermanence shows us all that everything is constantly changing, that everything comes and goes. Today there is pain, and tomorrow there will be happiness. Don’t let yourself be a prisoner of pain. Move forward.
  • Suffering also gives you the virtue of empathyBecause only one who suffers can sympathize, and that is something that makes you a better person. It’s an essential life lesson, and it will provide you with a great sensitivity, as well as a wise, dignified strength.

Awaken the courage that’s asleep inside of you and be capable of seeing suffering as a journey, not as a wall that imprisons you. Rise up, open your eyes inwardly to see yourself with greater clarity, and knock down every brick of those walls to allow yourself to be happy once again.

Resilience: Being Strong Despite Life’s Storms