Over the last three years of my life, I have spent a lot of time with people who are suffering. I have been with recovering addicts, people in prison, people who are coming out of painful breakups, people who are wrestling with painful childhood trauma, people who are grieving the death of loved ones.
Over the last three years, I have also spent a lot of time with people who are suffering, and, they either don’t know they’re suffering or they’re actively avoiding it.
Over the last three years, I have been in both of these shoes too. I have dealt with and avoided a lot of suffering.
Here are something’s I have learned in how to deal with suffering:
In the words of Henri Nouwen, you can’t face your soul all at once. Suffering in life is inevitable in life. When we are placed in situations we don’t want to be in, when we don’t have our needs met, we are placed in places of suffering. Because, we can’t escape it, we can’t face it all at once as well.
There is no proper way to grieve. If you’re angry be angry. If you’re depressed, be depressed. If you’re anxious, be anxious. Don’t commit crimes, but, get out what you need to get out.
We as human beings were not meant to carry the weight of our lives alone. Be sure to have a few people in your life that you can share your suffering with. Don’t expect one person to carry the weight of all of your suffering as well, be sure to have a few, and, if you don’t have a few, find a counselor, therapist or spiritual director.
Our bodies can only physically handle so much suffering. Studies have shown that emotional suffering triggers the same parts of the brain as physical suffering. Stress, exhaustion, emotional turmoil cause our bodies to suffer. When our bodies are relaxed and free, our spirits and minds can handle more. Be sure to sleep, detox and exercise.
Understand that you’re being held by a better reality, even if it is not present. Be present with your suffering, but, be present with this other reality. Be sure to have fun, laugh, and, experience this part of life as well.
Create time of doing nothing. The easiest way to avoid our problems are simply to run from them by being busy.
Create times to be busy. We can’t engage our lives all at once. We can’t wallow in sorrow the whole time.
From my own experiences:
Don’t watch movies with Meryl Streep.
Anything Jared Leto is likely to bring you down.
Hipster music fails you.