Monday, 24 December 2012

Pain, Suffering and Laundry

It's a character flaw on my part; the minute someone says to me " should really..." my heels dig in and I generally do the opposite. I was like this as a child and as a grown woman, I've only got better at doing the opposite of what I "should" be doing. It doesn't matter if the advice is good, accurate, well meaning or initial reaction is intractability. I just don't do what I'm told.

Like all 'flaws', it's a useful response. It means that I sanity check advice first. I don't blindly follow any one or doctrine. I critique the advice I'm given...and then I do the opposite anyway. My stubbornness makes me difficult to bully, bowing into peer pressure doesn't happen. I've learnt to trust that immediate response.

Since I last posted on my thoughts on Positive Mental Attitude and whether I 'should' have one, I've continued to think about it. One of the things that struck me comes from a Buddhist saying: 

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Why is pain inevitable? It's a harsh and bitter to pill to swallow. No one wants to be in pain. I look to biology for this: what is pain? Pain is a sensation. At it's core, that's all it is. A sensation. It happens for a very good and logical reason, it's a feedback system between our  mind, body and environment that is meant to keep us safe and well. There is a medical condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA), it's a rare and a debilitating condition where the sufferers are not able to feel pain, heat or cold. Sufferers can't tell when they've been injured, so can walk around on broken limbs, develop infections they were completely unaware of; some can't even control their bladders or bowels. They experience no feedback from their bodies at all.

So physical pain, although it's uncomfortable, is a necessary survival mechanism.

Emotional pain, I believe is also a necessary survival mechanism. The ability to feel a whole range of emotions in reaction to a situation or circumstance is emotionally healthy. To feel grief, anger, disappointment, grumpy, low...all of these things point to the healthy functioning of our emotional feedback system. They are pointing out that something isn't working, your attention is required. It can be neither comfortable or pleasant to sit with these emotions. They are painful.

But you know what? That's okay. Here's the thing, it's supposed to hurt. It's supposed to hurt when you say goodbye to someone you love. It's okay to be angry because you've been let down or betrayed. It's okay to be disappointed because something didn't work out.

Feel the emotions for what they are. Emotions. 

Suffering comes from being stuck in those emotions. Suffering comes from the stories that are created out of the pain. The internal dialogues that continually undermine. In Buddhist terms, it's about attachment. I like that idea. 

I think of my emotions being something like a washing line, strung out in my garden on a warm sunny day. The stories I tell myself about a situation or what I'm feeling are the clothes I hang up to dry on the line. I can do a dark wash and hang negative thoughts, or a white wash - hanging the light things to reflect the sunshine; or I could just do the laundry, let the clothes dry without judging how they look, put them away and enjoy the garden.

What is the appropriate response when dealing with physical pain? Attending to the cause, removing it if possible and healing the injury. Why should the appropriate response be any different to emotional pain? 

*   *   *

Not a terribly seasonal post I know, but that's where my thinking was going and I wanted to write it down. 

The last quarter of 2012 has not been easy. Flow turned to stagnation, in both my work and emotional spheres. This has led to me re-thinking much of what I learnt doing NLP and living in it's aftermath. It's clear to me that I have more to learn. I will not abandon this blog, I will continue to think about Life, the Universe and Everything and post my musings here. I hope you continue to find it useful. 

My wish for you all over the festive season, if indeed you are celebrating it, is that you and yours are happy, safe and well. May 2013 bring you prosperity, good luck, opportunities, love and fun.



  1. I don't have the highest expectations, but I'm sure going to aim to have some fun. Thanks, darling. Have a wonderful Christmas, all of you xxx

    1. I hope you have an excellent Christmas my dear. Low expectations means you've got lots of room for surprises and delights.

      I wish lots of both for you and yours this Christmas.

  2. Replies
    1. Happy Boxing Day dear heart.

      Lots of love to you.

  3. Merry Christmas Roses!
    Glad you're keeping on with your blog. I've missed mine too much....

    1. I'm writing it in dribs and drabs, I can't stay away from blogging, but I'm not as committed to it to the same extent as I have been in the past.

      It's a weird old time.


  4. *mwha* I wish you a good new year Roses - hope we all make the right choices and decisions.

  5. Replies
    1. Happy New Year to you and the kittehs!


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