To end our suffering, we need to enter our pain.
Robert Augustus Masters
It’s not a popular message. We’d rather hear a message that promises Ten Steps to Ultimate Happiness or The Elixir that Will Solve All Your Problems.
But, that’s not reality. Pain is part of our human experience. There is no avoiding it. But suffering, which is the story we attach to our pain—is optional. We can choose how to deal with our pain.
So what do we do? We try neither to indulge old story lines and old critical voices nor avoid our reality through disassociation or withdrawal. We all carry some survival coping skills from our childhood into our adult life. Many of these are not necessary anymore and some are downright unhealthy. My particular coping skill was checking out; I was easily overwhelmed and just pretended that whatever was happening wasn’t happening.
That might be okay when you’re eight, but not when you’re 30 or 40 and you have the responsibilities and obligations of career and family. You can’t just not show up.
But showing up is not easy. It takes going into the pain—feeling the pain, and sometimes even conjuring up old pain. My favorite quote of the moment is Jung’s What you resist, persists. To show up takes courage, resolve, a good support network and lots of love and patience. It’s a journey, one baby step at a time, and sometimes some steps backward, but every moment that you show up for your life and you face your pain, you open yourself up more and more to a fuller experience of yourself and of life.