Disappointment. Sorrow. Pain. Embarrassment. These terms correlate to negative feelings due to an unpleasant experience. Such experiences are often related to death, impermanence, loss, aging, illness, failure, and unrealistic expectations or views (i.e., unpleasant experiences—suffering). Buddhist teachings state that everyone is subject to suffering. Therefore, every living being will suffer throughout life. Such is life!
Unfortunately, many humans struggle with handling how they suffer. As a life coach, I see it all the time. People refuse to be open to the process of suffering and what can be learned. They are attached to their perceived need to be right or to have justice, to get what they want the way they envision, and to have only so-called good experiences. In fact, some humans believe they do not deserve to suffer, or that only so-called bad people should suffer—not good folks. So, I have concluded (both professionally and personally) that some humans have a skewed view about suffering. As a human, I know this to be true first hand in my own life. One instance, out of many, that comes to mind is during the early years of my marriage when my husband and I were trying to conceive. I was 24 years old. By the time I was 26, I had experienced five miscarriages; one of which was in my second trimester. We went to fertility specialists. I took hormone shots. I had surgery. We did most everything except IV (wasn’t in our budget at the time). I felt cheated, disappointment. I saw myself as a physically dysfunctional woman who failed at the one thing women are supposed to be designed for – biologically speaking. I felt my husband was uncaring and distant. He was unsympathetic to my pain (later, understood he was experiencing his own grief and pain as well). I was jealous of my sister and sister-in-law for being pregnant and carrying full term. I was enraged by stories of abortion and child abuse I had heard about. I became angry and frustrated. This state of mind triggered bad, hurtful behavior.
Looking back, I can honestly say I was not a nice person and I disliked myself. During this experience, I saw no lesson. I was blinded by my unrealistic views and grief. I was attached to my concept of being a mother, what it meant to be a woman, and my idea of family. I was wrapped up in my needs and wants, and became disappointment when life did not turn out the way I envisioned. Over time, I have learned that unpleasant experiences provide growth. When I view my suffering through this lens, I see that the experience of miscarrying was meant to teach me unconditional love—both for myself and others. I realized that motherhood was not biological only. It is emotional and a state of mind supported by motherly behavior. I also realized that I was stronger than I knew. I further understood that pain can override reason and sensibility. Likewise, being hurt does not give anyone the right to be or behave hurtfully. With my new view, I see how to work around my feelings or emotions (most times—still a work in progress).
So, suffering can show us what we are capable of under pressure and adversity. Suffering can build character and is the foundation of our strength. For my willing clients, I provide mental tools (that I also use personally) on how to “be” with the process of suffering. I also remind my clients of the below concepts. If you choose to put them to practice, these reminders can also help you be with and appreciate unpleasant experiences.
What to mentally remember:
Whatever you are going through, it is temporary—it will not last
Every experience has a lesson-- be open to learn
What you feel or perceive may not be what is going on—there is more to the experience
You are not alone—someone, somewhere has had a similar experience, is currently going through a similar experience, or is likely to have a similar experience in the future
You do not have to behave badly because you feel badly—you are in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions
You can survive the experience—you are designed to adapt and overcome
Things that you can physically do:
Participate in charity work—helping others will help you feel better about yourselves
Exercise the body (walk, cardio, weights, yoga)—it channels emotions and feelings, and helps to keep you fit
Meditate at least 10 minutes a day, twice a day—conditioning your mind helps change your perception and it allows you to become more in-tune with what is real or true
Find a creative outlet—painting, writing poetry, journaling, listening to music, and reading positive information provides relief from your suffering
Talk to someone—there are supportive resources to help you through; seek out others who have had the experience, get spiritual guidance, hire a life coach, or find a therapist (caveat – don’t post on social media, unless it’s an online support group)
Be around loving and encouraging people—love is vital and reminds us to appreciate pleasant experiences
Dawn C. Reid is the Chief Coaching Officer of Reid Ready Life Coaching. Dawn’s life coaching approach helps women achieve personal and professional goals, and her executive coaching techniques are used to help companies develop team building strategies, increase productivity, build cohesion, and improve customer service.
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