This quote, “Pain is Inevitable – Suffering is Optional”, is not easy to attribute to the originator, but some think it may derive from Buddhist traditional philosophy, and it certainly fits, regardless. The quote, and what it can mean, is also one of the most powerful metaphors to be heard and explored in the therapy room. This short post explores for you the reader, some of its potency.
When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Courtesy – fakebuddhaquotes.com/pain-is-inevitable-suffering-is-optional/
Regardless of whether the originating pain is physical and/or emotional, it is what we make of the experience that ultimately determines the power it holds over us.
Just this morning, while out enjoying a leisurely countryside walk with my dog, I became aware of a painful calf muscle. Almost immediately, I found a judgemental thought had popped up uninvited into my consciousness.” ouch, that’s not good!“
A More Mindful Approach
I recalled my toolbox of mentally available choices; the power to make of this what I will.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
Having checked in that no action was required at that time, I let go of shining the light of my attention on the pain and moved the focus of my awareness to the leg without any pain! The result was immediate and comforting. A perfect time to be present and more mindful.
Of course, I was still aware at some level of the discomfort; it’s not about denial, but the internal judgement and measuring of the discomfort meant it was more that tolerable, allowing me to continue and enjoy the rest of the walk. By the time we arrived home some fifteen minutes later, I had lost any awareness of discomfort. I had walked it off.
The memory arose while writing this post, and I smiled!
And with Emotional Pain?
As with the majority of clients, I meet, who desire relief from anxiety, depression – or the symptoms arising from matters of the past. The manifestations of emotions, negative beliefs, and subsequent behaviours today – mean I too find myself on a life-long journey of regulating my thoughts and emotions, thanks to an innate desire to grow continually via new experiences and learning.
I too have a lifetime narrative of my needs and expectations not being met; today, however, I have made peace with my past in the knowledge that while I could not alter that time passed, I can heal my associations and cognitions which lead to negatively-sensed triggers today.
My past no longer hurts, It no longer exists, other than as pages of chapters long since written. I can elect to re-visit any page, any chapter, but it no longer defines who I am today, at this moment.
Does a sentence need to be passed?
So, It’s not what I judge about the emotional, or physical pain that creates negative emotions, beliefs, or behaviours – it’s what I choose, in awareness, to think about them.
And that, folks, is the difference between a need to control, and a position of power and conscious choice.
Do comment, engage and share, and to learn more – call or write. I’d love to read your take on pain and the topics covered here.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).