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Pain Is Inevitable
EMILY JACOB
ReConnected Life

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional.

I used to want to scream at people who said that. But it’s true. Allowing ourselves to feel empathy and compassion for others’ pain makes us human.

I remember the first time I heard it. I remember wanting to punch the person in the face, and I’m a pacifist. I remember thinking, f-you, you’ve obviously never been hurt so bad that it consumes you, that you can’t breathe; you’ve never been anywhere close to the living hell that I’m living if you can say that.  I remember thinking lucky, privileged, narrow-minded you, how dare you infer that I am choosing to suffer. How dare you infer that if I were only stronger, then I would not be suffering. How dare you infer that I must want this.

I was reminded of this saying recently in a conversation with a client. She expressed that she’d been told this same thing, and the whole concept had blown her away; that she might encounter more painful experiences in life, but she didn’t need to suffer from them; pain didn’t need to mean unendurable.

And it made me think. I’ve been having what I’d characterise as a ‘low’ – of course, choosing to do this work means that rape continues to be a feature of my life; after I’d spent so long to not think about it every day, I now choose to think about it every day. And I’m forever grateful that I no longer think of ‘my’ rape, or his face, so it’s a different way of rape being in my life. But it’s still a non-comfortable topic to be surrounded by, even when the focus is on healing others and the honour and gratitude that gives me, that I can help and that I am helping. But, by making rape the focus of my day, it means I look for it, even when I’m not looking. I see it in TV shows, and feel like I should write. I see it in the news, and feel like I should comment.  I get told of it happening to friends, and family friends, and friends of friends.

It’s not something I can switch off.

There’s something new in the feeling low though, that didn’t used to be present. In the past, feeling low felt unendurable. In the past, seeing the news and others suffering felt like it was happening to me, again. But there’s a difference now – now I recognise that I don’t need to switch off the pain, the pain is just there. My choice is whether to suffer. And suffering is not necessary. I can be open to the pain, without numbing it, so that I can be open to happiness and joy without numbing that too. I can create a boundary instead of wearing armour.

I can recognise pain without being pained.

So, yes, recent news events have felt painful. But there is no need for my suffering. I’ve noticed how many in my Community group have spoken of being triggered, or feeling that they might be triggered, and so avoiding news. Now, of course, this can be a very sensible precaution to take if there is actually a risk of being triggered back to your own suffering.  But being affected by other people’s suffering does not mean we are triggered; it means we are human and we have compassion and empathy. Numbing against our emotions is no way to live. We must allow ourselves to feel pain, knowing that we aren’t in the pain. The pain reminds us we aren’t a psychopath. Don’t be fearful of feeling. Feelings are not triggers; painful things are not triggers. We can be pained and not also triggered. This has been a revelation to me.

Allowing ourselves to feel empathy and compassion for others’ pain makes us human. The world needs more humans. 

All the love xx

 

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