The other day I ran into a friend whom I had not seen for a long time. In our conversation, she confessed to me that she was in the process of separation and later divorce because she was not happy in her marriage. While there are many reasons that she mentioned, the most important seems to have been that she has begun to discover who she truly is, or at least that she has started a process for it. In her relationship, during the more than 10 years of it, she has been getting used to saying "yes" blindly, not having a voice or vote in mutual decisions, and being strongly criticized every time she proposes or opposes something that your partner does not like it. Because of this, she has come to the conclusion that her current relationship is keeping her "stuck" by limiting her through criticism and judgment, and she feels it is time to explore herself in an environment that facilitates it.
Within the conversation, we also realized that she is repeating patterns from her childhood. Her parents raised her in a very traditional way in her culture, making her obey and silence her opinions when they were contrary to those of her father. When meeting her partner, who is from a generally less conservative culture, she saw a glimmer of hope to get out of the known and find something different that could bring her out of a certain internal prison in which she felt she was finding herself. However, the person she chose from her treated her almost the same as her family, and the cycle was repeated until she managed to see him. She explained to me how through dreams in which she spoke languages that she did not understand herself, and through her daily experiences and self-reflection, she was able to realize that she was not connected with herself and that she had never been able to do so from her childhood.
We discovered that her body and mind felt identified with and even drawn on a subconscious level to the familiar, even if a part of her wanted to escape from that reality that she disliked so much. This leap into the unknown is often so overwhelming that we often tend to be attracted to people who remind us of our parents or who repeat patterns from the past, even if this involves unhappiness. This, until we realize it and take the opportunity to break out of that pattern. There we have the opportunity to explore who we are while staying in the relationship, or, if we discover that it is not possible or there is too much resistance by one or both parties, outside of it, depending also on the willingness of both sides.
This initial recognition led her to reproach her childhood, her upbringing, her family, her husband, and in part her life until now. She went on to say that her childhood destroyed her, that it took away her identity, her connection to herself, and doomed her to a future with people who don't appreciate her. She had a lot of anger in her that she was just discovering and expressing, anger that was repressed for years. After acknowledging that anger and the causes of it, we talked a little about the purpose of pain, suffering, and the differences between them.
Life gives us situations that can cause us pain, precisely to learn through it. Emotional pain comes from some situation in the present, which evokes an emotion, and which tends to be annoying and unpleasant. Pain is completely normal and is a fundamental part of our human condition, as it represents our connection to our emotions. When taken consciously, pain is a perfect channel of consciousness, as Buddha said, since it forces us to take a step back and recognize what attachments or mental or emotional identifications we are having that are preventing us from being free and happy, and more connected to who we are.
One tends to stay with the pain for a limited time, and after acknowledging it, and accepting it, you can move on to making conscious decisions that bring you back to the present, optimally more awake. Suffering, on the other hand, is resistance to pain, and it tends to be a state of mind of not accepting what is. It can come as a result of covering up the pain itself to pretend that it does not exist, in which case it can transform into a hidden, subconscious suffering that tries to come out through our pores in one way or another, and that can come out like an erupting volcano the time has come. Or it can come from judging and condemning so much with the pain that we resist the present and remain indefinitely in the past suffering for something that we can no longer change, without accepting it and returning to the present. Suffering, by making it conscious, can return to its primordial state of pain, which is temporary, or it can simply be transmuted into energy that we can use for our benefit.
Back to my friend, after discussing the information above a bit, I asked her to consider her life, including her childhood and her marriage, in a new perspective, taking into account pain and suffering. This time she saw more clearly that everything that had happened to her, since she was little, no matter how much pain and suffering she has brought in her life, had been necessary to wake up. If she had not had such a hard childhood, which drowned her in dogmas and mental prisons, and if she had not chosen a partner who would reinforce her identity as someone meek and submissive, she would not have exploded into such a profound awakening that she was going through. That is, every situation that she went through was necessary to get to this moment. Within that same perspective, leaving the ego behind, she was even able to appreciate and thank her parents and husband for giving her the opportunity to wake up and find herself, and have that strong connection with herself that she was experiencing at that moment.
From this perspective, any life situation loses its harmful effect on us, and we stop reproaching the past or the painful stimuli of the day-to-day. We can feel the pain when it comes, we will understand that it is completely normal to feel it, and after the initial unpleasant stage, we will return more easily to the acceptance of it with new learnings. Suffering, additionally, becomes optional, since if we simply accept the pain at the time, without resisting it or prolonging it unnecessarily, there will be no place for it.
I want to leave you next with 4 steps to transcend pain and suffering:
1) Recognize the situation that is causing you pain or suffering:
to. What situation is it?
b. How does it make you feel?
c. Is it pain, that is, a natural reaction to the situation, or is it suffering, that is, resistance and prolonged mental judgment to the situation?
2) Whether it is pain or suffering, express and feel your emotions appropriately: examples of strategies for this can be, talking about your emotions with a friend, a coach or a psychologist; weep when the body feels the need for it; connect with your pain or suffering in your meditation and just let it be; write everything you feel and connect emotionally by doing so. Remember that whatever you feel, it has a right to be there, and the more you judge it, the more it will stay, it will still increase by having other catabolic emotions above you. Self-compassion (accepting yourself and being kind to yourself) at this time is key to moving forward. The body is the best judge at this time to know when it is ready to go to the next stage: acceptance.
3) Once you feel that you are more emotionally free, identify a perspective under which you can accept the situation more easily. You may ask yourself:
a. How could it not be different?
b. In what way is this situation helping or has it contributed to my growth and what is it teaching me?
c. If I realize that I cannot change what happened and that it is rather helping my growth, how would I feel?
4) With this new learning and hopefully, acceptance, create new actions or habits that allow you to move forward: With the example of my friend, she decided that she is going to start seeing more friends, learn to play an instrument, learn another language, and study theater, which are things that have always interested him and have never dared to do in the past.
I trust that this information and experience will be of use to you! If you liked it, I invite you to like it and share it with those you think may need it, and see you soon with more content on Transmute Yourself! And if you need support with dealing with your own pain and suffering, do not hesitate to write me at javier.penalba@transmuteyourself so we can schedule a free, introductory coaching session.