We constantly feel like we are waging a war with life: fighting for our happiness and trying the beat down the things that make us feel bad. If we can change the negative situations in our life we just need the strength to change them and face our fears. But sometimes we can’t change our situation: Does this mean we have no choice but to suffer?

Absolutely not! Whilst we may have uncomfortable situations in our life, and may even have significant physical or psychological pain, this does not mean we have to suffer. Suffering comes about due to the way we relate to pain. This strategy is associated with ‘acceptance’, which is the first step in letting go of the suffering.

Imagine we were stuck in quicksand. There are no ropes or branches to help us get out. Normally when we step in something we fear we usually struggle to get out. Normally the most effective way is to run out of the uncomfortable situation, but not in the case of quicksand. If we try and lift our foot out of quicksand all of our weight transfers to the other foot and we sink this foot in further. The best thing to do when stuck in quicksand it to actually distribute your weight evenly by lying down. This seems crazy and counter-intuitive to maximise your body contact with something you want to get out of, but in this case it is actually helpful. Our own lives are like this, but unfortunately our quicksand seems to pop up at every corner. Most of our deepest worries have been around for years and if we don’t address our issues they will stay with us . When we worry about things we try and problem solve them. This is where the mind is often most helpful; In trying to figure out strategies to solve the uncomfortable situations we must face as part of life. Yet sometimes no matter how much we try and solve certain problems, we can’t seem to make them disappear. We may have a parent we struggle to get along with, a child who we clash with, a boss who we think is unreasonable, and yet no matter how much we think about the situation, we can’t seem to make the situation go away. Sometimes our problem solving mind can actually create more issues for us in certain situations, and sometimes it is time to flick the switch and try something
different.

We all suffer at some point: we haven’t yet been able to escape this (or we probably wouldn’t be reading this). Depression and anxiety have extremely high statistics around the world, and antidepressant use is growing each year (despite them statistically only around 20% better than a placebo). About 50% of marriages end in divorce and even when marriages survive, many are filled with problems and suffering. Whilst some of us have terrible things that have happened to create our suffering, the vast majority of us have what is now termed as “first-world problems”. People who are intelligent and successful don’t tend to suffer any less than less fortunate people. Statistics show that people in successful economies have similar suicide rates than those in poorer countries. It is clear that money is not a safeguard to avoiding psychological stressors, anxiety or depression.  Our internal pain is not like external events that we can change. Trying to get rid of internal pain  through fighting it or struggling can often make you more entangled in your pain and transform it into something even more painful.

Activities

Every time you engage in a behaviour to avoid negative personal pain (such as avoiding a party because of social anxiety), you are likely to feel an immediate sense of relief from not having to deal with the painful thought, feeling, or bodily sensation. This sense of relief reinforces you to continue avoiding similar situations. However, each time you do this, you actually give the painful thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations, more power to control you.