“Suffering is not caused by pain but by resisting pain.” -Unknown
The other day I was watching TV when one of those pharmaceutical commercials came on.
You know, the kind that shows a blissful looking woman running through a field of flowers while a voiceover extols the virtues of some drug—and then concludes with a list of possible side effects, including tremors, agitation, drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, blurred vision, night sweats, blood clot, stroke, and in some cases, death.
It might have been for psoriasis or restless syndrome; regardless, I found myself wondering if solving one of these unpleasant but non-life threatening problems was actually worth the risk of so many more uncomfortable, and in some cases, dangerous ones.
Then I started to think about how this type of thinking often prevails in everyday life, when a drink, a cigarette, or a bucket of chicken can seem like a quick fix for an unpleasant feeling.
While any of these things might provide relief in the present, they open us up to a great deal of potential pain in the future.
I’ve turned to all of these crutches at different points in my life; and despite making tremendous progress over the years, sometimes it still takes a conscious effort to resist instant gratification when I’m hurting.
It can feel like a reflex—I want this feeling to end, and I know exactly the fix that will numb it.
What we don’t always remember in that moment when we reach for the pill—whatever it may be—is that dulling the symptom rarely removes the cause. It’s really just an avoidance tactic. It’s a way to feel better right now without doing anything to help you feel better on the whole.
It may dull the pain of a fight, but it doesn’t change that there’s conflict. It may soften the blow of a loss, but it doesn’t change that someone or something is gone.
It may cloud the reality of what is, but in no way makes it different.
Oftentimes we feel the need to do something to make pain go away, but most often what we really need is to sit with it, learn from it, and then act on what we’ve learned.
It might be uncomfortable to go against what we usually do, but it’s the only way to create the possibility of feeling better than we usually feel.
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