Connect with Suffering

It seems like life becomes more manageable, when we are able to integrate the reality that it is difficult. Once we can grasp this, then we are less tethered to dismay. When we embrace the difficulty of life, we take it’s power away and things get easier.

That word “should”,  I have to ask my clients not to bring it into our therapy space. “Should” sets us up for all sorts of disappointments. Should is an unrealistic expectation. One of judgement. Nothing good can come of should. It’s a fairy tale.

The real truth is life is a series of problems. It is not linear. It is up and down. Do we want to accept this, or do we want to continue to live in lala land? Do we want to teach our kids to expect and solve problems, or do we continue to pave their path, so they don’t see reality, until they are grown and it hits them right between the eyes? Hmmm, which is the better parent, the one that prepares the child, or the one that snowplows and hovers?(I’m dedicating this one to the teacher who was dismayed because my child refused to take their lunch to school repeatedly, after being reminded repeatedly. The teacher called me to insist I bring it to school, even after knowing it was my child’s choice not to bring it. Hello, where is the lesson in this for the child? Acceptance of responsibility is one of the important lessons we must teach our kids. I guess teacher was a term used loosely in the case of Mrs. M)

Frustration, grief and stress are all part of the problem solving process. They cause anxiety and fear, and these are not enjoyable emotions for any of us. But once we learn to sit with them, and ask them what we can learn from them, then they are not quite so all-consuming. In fact, they become quite manageable.

Those of us who refuse to learn from our pain, we are the ones who can’t manage our lives well. We can’t manage problems well. We are still fighting the “shoulds”. Could it be that this process of greeting our problems and solving them is what gives our life meaning?

To solve a problem we often have to muster our courage, and this is where growth begins for most of us. As Benjamin Franklin said, Those things that hurt, instruct. Think of school, when we are in school to learn math, we are given problems to solve. This is how we learn arithmetic, and life as well.

I would venture to say that the basis for much human mental illness, is our attempt to avoid problems, and the emotional pain that they bring. We absolutely don’t want to suffer. We stay with abusive partners because we don’t want to experience the pain of leaving. We allow grown children’s misbehavior, because we want to avoid the suffering that comes with proper parenting. We refuse to growup, because that too is painful sometimes.

This is how we make peace with laying down the “shoulds” . We embrace the realities, and we get excited about the growth and wisdom fostered through troubles. They are coming whether you like it or not, so you may as well learn a healthy way of managing them.

Ps. The child decided to take their lunch the next day, unprompted by me, after I did not react to the decision to not take it the day before. Our kids have to learn to make choices , some wise, some not so wise, some with painful consequences, while still in the safety of a loving home environment. This is part of growing up.