What lives between the onset of emotional pain and the resolution of that pain is suffering.
I am learning to radically reduce the time between the onset of emotional pain and the resolution of that pain—thereby reducing or eliminating suffering.
I don’t know if it’s possible to live without pain—I don’t think so—but I’ve come to know that it is possible to minimize suffering.
To make this possible, I accept that my emotional pain is always caused by me.
I cause myself pain in one of three ways.
1. I behave in ways that I regret—and then either I beat myself up or I justify my behavior by making the other person wrong. But in making others wrong I create pain for myself.
2. I get defensive in response to another person’s projections or judgments about me. As soon as I get defensive, I close myself off—in various ways—and this isolation causes me pain.
3. I suffer a loss, and by staying attached to what I lost—in my past—I contaminate my present and future.
The solution for me is always the same.
Reduce the amount of time between the onset of my pain and the resolution of my pain.
So let’s go through the three scenarios:
1. When I behave poorly, instead of spending time beating myself up or justifying myself, I go directly to the other person involved and redo myself. This may involve apologizing or clarifying or simply finding another way—a more mature way—to express myself. As soon as I do this, I stop suffering. This applies to all situations in my life. If I was abused as a child, the longer I wait to resolve the situation (and I believe it can be resolved), the longer I will suffer. If I am snappy or impatient with my wife, Hannah, the longer I wait to resolve the situation, the longer I will suffer.
2. When I get defensive in response to another person’s projections or judgments about me—I pain myself by denying their experience because doing so creates separation and distance between us. And I will suffer from our separation or the tension between us until I accept their experience. Only then can we work to sort out what’s my responsibility and what’s theirs.
3. When I experience a loss and fixate upon my loss, I suffer. The longer I wait to resolve my loss—and resolving loss usually involves acceptance—the longer I suffer. Resolving this kind of suffering, in my experience, is the most difficult. Loss, especially of loved ones, exists in its own time frame, and acceptance cannot be forced.
I’m glad to share these ideas with you because I believe when they are put into practice they can make a profound difference. Remember, the first step is accepting that “my emotional pain is always caused by me.” Why is that so important? Because if I am the one causing my pain I can do something about it.
My intention is to take action as soon as things don’t feel right in my life . . . by redoing myself, by accepting another person’s experience, or by accepting loss—which can take time—and then coming back into the present.
What’s your intention?