Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Kahlil Gibran
Suffering is an Unavoidable Part of Life…
At times, do you feel as though you just can’t catch a break? Life just seems like an endless maze of problems that push you to your limits. Every day you face the challenges of uncertainty in the form of unexpected setbacks and adversity.
You, of course, understand that life isn’t always going to be a walk in the park, but you never imagined things would be this difficult. It just seems as though your struggles have no end. It’s as though you’re caught up in this perpetual cycle of endless problems that suffocate you at every turn.
From your hopeless vantage point, you look at other people and secretly envy the life they live. They seem to have it all. They certainly don’t have your problems and dilemmas. On the surface, it just seems as though their life is a piece of cake. Yes, they have their own personal struggles, but their struggles pale in comparison to what you’re going through.
Life just doesn’t seem fair. Every day you suffer in some shape or form. For instance, you struggle with your health, you can’t pay those bills, you don’t get along with your partner, your kids don’t listen to you, your boss doesn’t like you, and it just seems as though you’re always dealing with new problems that you never asked for. In fact, many of your problems are not even yours. You’ve merely inherited them from other people.
So to sum up, your life just totally sucks, and you’re kind of stuck right in the middle of it with no way out.
As difficult as life may seem at this very moment, the suffering you experience is an unavoidable part of life that touches everyone in one shape or form. Yes, from a distance it appears as though other people don’t experience your pain. However, below the surface behind closed doors, they too are dealing with their own personal struggles.
Suffering touches everyone. In fact, everyone goes through periods of suffering in the form of loss, grief, sorrow, loneliness, hardship, and pain. We all experience these things. It’s all just part of the human condition. It’s part of being human and living the human experience.
Suffering, though, is an impermanent condition. It’s something that comes and goes in cycles and phases. Very much like the oceans that go through regular rhythms and cycles of a low and a high tide. Although, when it comes to suffering, it’s a little less predictable and cyclical.
Could Suffering be an Opportunity in Disguise?
When we suffer and struggle through various aspects of life, it takes a toll on our emotional health, physical state, and mental attitude. And it’s, of course, entirely okay to be vulnerable and to admit that things are tough. Accept what is, but don’t succumb to self-pity. Don’t you dare play the victim card because things may very well not be as they seem.
Have you ever considered that your suffering actually presents you with incredible opportunity? I’m, of course, not talking about opportunities that will suddenly help you solve all your problems. Instead, what I’m referring to are opportunities that help shift how you think and approach your problems.
Consider for a moment that your suffering presents you with an opportunity to reevaluate your life. Yes, you’re struggling right now, but just maybe, under the surface, this is a blessing in disguise. Just perhaps, you’re moving down the wrong path. Or, maybe, your suffering is an opportune time to work on yourself and transform your perspective. Ask yourself:
What can I learn from this experience and the struggles I’m working through?
What’s this experience trying to teach me about myself, about others, about my problems, and about my life?
How does this experience change things? How could it potentially change me as a person?
How must I adapt and change as a person to make the most of this experience?
Suffering presents you with an opportunity to potentially begin anew. Something you’re doing may very well need an upgrade. It could, therefore, be an opportune time to start over again and move in a brand new direction. Ask yourself:
How could this experience help me start over again?
How could it potentially lead me down a better path?
Suffering is very much a form of inner cleansing that can lead to remarkable change, growth, and transformation. In fact, it can dramatically transform how you feel, think about, and respond to the circumstances of your life. In other words, it presents an opportunity to adopt new perspectives that can help you live life in more optimal ways.
When we suffer, we can either choose to succumb to our predicament, or we can use it as an opportunity for growth and transformation.
Suffering, for instance, presents an opportunity to show the strength of your character. It offers an opportunity to display courage and practice resilience in the face of adversity. What’s more, it provides a platform you can use to inspire others with your positive spirit and mental fortitude.
When you suffer, it doesn’t mean that you’re helpless or at the mercy of forces outside of your control. Yes, things are tough, but mentally and emotionally you still control your own fate. It might not seem like it, but you entirely control how you feel, how you perceive things, and what you choose to do at any given moment.
All it takes is a shift in your mental attitude, and you can begin to take full advantage of the opportunities your suffering presents you with. It’s all a state-of-mind. It’s how you perceive and interpret things that matter. That’s really all that counts. However, before you make this perspective shift, there are several things we must come to acknowledge and understand.
To Alleviate Suffering Requires Understanding
There is a saying that goes a little something like this:
“As one man suffers another counts his blessings for he imagines how fortunate he is not to be the other man.”
Yes, you may not be in an ideal place right now. Physically, mentally, and emotionally you may be struggling. Things certainly haven’t panned out as you had expected, but possibly things are not as bad as you make them out to be. Just maybe, things could’ve been much worse. Ask yourself:
How could things be worse than this?
Given this worst-case scenario, what is there to be thankful for?
How do others have it worse than I do?
Remember that life is full of ups and downs. It’s full of impermanent experiences and emotional states that pass by as swiftly and violently as the storms above your head.
We all experience pain. However, to fully appreciate the pleasures that life has to offer, we must endure the hardships that it throws our way. Without the pain, the pleasures wouldn’t be as impressive — it would be easy to take them for granted.
Everything in life goes through stages and cycles. These cycles sometimes come and go in a blink of an eye, while at other times they tend to linger and latch onto our soul.
You may not be in a position to control precisely what happens to you, but you can certainly control how you respond. Moreover, you’re in control of how long these cycles last and how quickly you move through them.
Let’s just admit that bad stuff will suddenly happen, and you will experience inevitable pain. Your pain is, however, a short-lived experience. It fades over time. Your suffering though is the thing you hold onto. It’s something you carry with you each and every day. And yet, this is a choice you make.
The attitude you adopt during these critical moments is the key to helping you break free from your own personal torture chamber.
Let’s, however, make it very clear that you never choose to experience pain. What you do choose is to suffer the consequences of that pain. And that choice comes through your attitude. You suffer because of how you have chosen to respond to that pain and predicament. That is where your suffering comes from.
You suffer because of how you have chosen to interpret the long-term consequences of that pain. In other words, your suffering has nothing to do with your circumstances, but rather everything to do with your attitude and the perspective you have chosen to adopt in this situation.
Many people will, of course, put up a fight and struggle against the consequences of their pain. However, this just leads to even more suffering. The more you struggle, the more you will suffer, and the more long-term pain you will inevitably experience.
The key is to let go. Stop resisting your pain. Stop fighting against it. Instead, choose to find meaning in your suffering. Find meaning in your pain. Acknowledge that…
There is purpose behind all this…
This purpose will be revealed in due course…
Only, and if you reach this level of understanding and awareness, will you be ready and able to work through the 3-step process for alleviating suffering.
A 3-Step Method for Alleviating Suffering
What follows is a 3-step process you can use to help alleviate your suffering.
Please, however, keep in mind that these steps will not by themselves change your circumstances or predicament. They will instead reprogram your brain to view your circumstances more favorably. As a result, this will ease your pain and help you work through your suffering in a solution-focused manner.
Step 1: Acknowledge and Accept
Suffering is a state of mind that comes from a sense of powerlessness. When we feel helpless and seemingly unable to control our circumstances, we tend to suffer. However, suffering also manifests through our struggles.
Whenever we struggle to overcome a problem, we encounter resistance. Striving to fight through this resistance to the detriment of our emotional, physical, and mental health leads to inevitable suffering. And, when we suffer we end up feeling helpless and out of control.
Given all this, it seems as though that the only way to alleviate our suffering is to step back and let go. In other words, fully accept what can’t be controlled then release the need for control.
For instance, you can no longer control what happened. What happened, happened. It’s in the past. Let it go. You also probably can’t control other people. Then let that go as well.
Fully accept that things are the way they ought to be, then turn your focus inward on the things you actually control.
Openly acknowledge that you control your words, attitude, thoughts, body language, perspective, and interpretation of the situation. You also, for the most part, probably control the choices you will make moving forward. Acknowledge your freedom to make these choices. This is the only way to tap into your personal power.
Suffering has no power over you when you come from a position of strength rather than from a position of weakness. However, you must first tap into this core strength by looking inward for answers and not outward for problems.
Step 2: Adopt an Optimal Mental Attitude
Having acknowledged and accepted what it is you can and cannot control, it’s time to adopt an optimal mental attitude that can help you to effectively work through your suffering.
An optimal attitude stems from a flexible and malleable approach to life. In other words, no matter what happens you are resourceful enough to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Moreover, it requires that you stay calm and composed in the face of adversity and work your way through your predicament in optimal ways.
You will also need patience to progressively work your way through difficult periods in your life. You will need self-acceptance to release your doubts and insecurities; self-compassion to work through your limitations, and gratitude to inspire a positive frame of mind. Ask yourself:
What do I appreciate about myself?
What’s there to be grateful for right now?
An optimal mental attitude will provide you with a platform that can help you to alleviate your suffering and work through your problems in more optimal ways.
Step 3: Find Purpose in Your Suffering
Now that you are in a more optimal frame of mind, it’s time to begin priming your brain to make a perspective shift.
You suffer primarily because of the way you have conditioned yourself to view and interpret your predicament. Choose to interpret it another way, and almost like magic, your suffering takes a nosedive.
You instantly vanquish your suffering because your view of your circumstances changes. These changes come about because the rules you previously assigned to your suffering no longer apply. They no longer apply because your perspective of the situation and of yourself in that situation is now different. As a result, your interpretations change, which brings about a new set of rules on how one must deal with such a predicament.
Making a perspective shift happens instantly. However, it can take time to let go of the limiting beliefs that have been holding you back all these years.
Letting go of limiting perspectives, beliefs, and rules requires time. It requires progressively training your brain to accept new and more optimal methods of thinking and interpreting your life experiences. And this type of training can only be achieved in three distinct ways.
First, you must feed your brain with new information. This comes from reading books, watching movies, documentaries, etc. Spend time researching how others have overcome suffering and adversity. Their journey and the lessons they learned along that journey will begin to transform how you interpret the circumstances and conditions of your life.
Similarly, seek support from family members and close friends. Ask them to share their experiences. Furthermore, encourage them to share their perspectives, opinions, and attitudes about the difficulties you’re currently facing. Their unique viewpoints could very well become a catalyst for positive change.
Thirdly, use meditation and self-reflection to mentally work through your struggles. Utilize self-reflection to learn from your mistakes and failures. Use it as a tool to help you make more optimal choices. Additionally, use meditation as a grounding mechanism that keeps you calm, centered, and focused as you work through difficult periods of your life.
Your ultimate goal is to find a purpose to your suffering. No matter what difficulties you face everything has reason and purpose. There is a bigger picture here that you’re not presently aware of. Explore that picture using the methods described here, and you will progressively free yourself from the burden of your suffering.
How to Transform Your Perspective On Suffering
You will never alleviate your suffering until you choose to view your predicament and circumstances more optimally. It’s about making a perspective shift. In other words, it’s about reinterpreting the events and circumstances of your life in a solution-focused manner.
Let’s, however, make it very clear that this ain’t easy to do. It’s easy to play the victim card and indulge in self-pity. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to step up to the plate and take the initiative to consciously and purposefully change how you think about things. But it’s certainly possible, and it can be done when you train yourself to make four fundamental perspective shifts.
Shift Your Frame
The first shift you can make is the frame of reference shift. This is where you reframe the events and circumstances of your life more favorably. For instance, you could ask yourself:
What’s a better way to think about this predicament?
What can I learn from this experience that could be of value?
How could I potentially turn this into an opportunity that can help move me forward in a better way?
How can I make the most of this situation?
This is all about shifting toward a solution-oriented frame of mind where you ask questions that can help you work through your circumstances in optimal ways.
Shift Your Persona
The second shift you can make is the persona shift. This is where you put yourself into another person’s or character’s shoes and view the situation from their perspective. For instance, you could ask yourself:
How would (insert person’s name) handle this?
How would they deal with this pain?
How would they view and interpret the predicament I find myself in?
What would they do in my situation?
How would they work through this problem?
This person could be someone you know. It could also be someone famous that you don’t know. It could be a mentor, an idol, or even a historical figure. This person doesn’t even have to be real. You could, for instance, use movie or cartoon characters as a reference. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it forces you to view your situation more favorably.
Shift Your Intention
The third shift you can make is the intention shift. This is where you approach a situation with a different set of intentions. For instance, instead of coming from a position of weakness as a victim of circumstance, you challenge yourself to approach your predicament from a position of strength.
As an example, make a shift from a place of suffering to one where you intend to contribute and share your joy with others. Ask yourself:
How can I better serve other people in this situation?
What value can I provide other people with?
How can I help and contribute to make their life better?
The moment you turn away from being inwardly focused, and instead, prioritize other people’s needs over your own, that is when you move from a position of weakness to a position of strength and power.
Empowerment and personal power manifest when you fully accept your current predicament, then use it as a source of strength that helps you move forward in a better way. And the best approach to take is to contribute to others.
When you turn away from your own needs and instead focus on helping other people, that becomes a catalyst for a perspective shift. Your focus on helping others puts your personal life and circumstances into proper perspective, which helps you view your suffering in a more favorable way.
Shift Your Time Period
The fourth shift you can make is the time period shift. This is where you teleport yourself mentally into the future to gain a proper perspective on your current predicament. For instance, ask yourself:
How will I view my current struggles in 10 years time?
What specific value will I derive from all these experiences?
How will all this strengthen my character and potentially build a platform for a better life?
When you take the time to explore the future effects of your ongoing struggles you may very well come to appreciate the tremendous growth opportunities that lie ahead.
The lesson here is not to resist our struggles, but rather to embrace and use them to grow our strength of character.
Make Full Use of Your Imagination
Making all these perspective shifts, of course, requires some imagination. You can, however, also use your imagination in other ways to help alleviate suffering.
For instance, imagine that the struggles you’re going through are alleviating someone else’s suffering. Or, imagine that your suffering and struggles are a requirement for long-term happiness and fulfillment. They are here today to strengthen you for what’s to come concerning your relationships, challenges, goals, and experiences that you are yet to have.
Finally, imagine that your suffering is necessary to help you successfully transition into the next chapter of your life. In other words, your struggles are nothing more but slippery stepping stones that help you learn the lessons needed to make the most of what’s to come.
Ultimately, it’s all about finding a purpose for your suffering and struggles. That is essentially what will relieve your suffering.
That purpose, of course, may not be very clear or evident at the moment, but it’s definitely there. You just need to be consciously and actively searching for it.
Therefore, instead of playing the victim card, make a perspective shift and put your detective hat on. View yourself as a detective solving a crime. The crime is the mystery of the missing purpose behind all your struggles. 🙂
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 4 Qualities of Mind that Alleviate Suffering @ Psychology Today
- 5 Ways to Avoid Mental Pain and Suffering @ Huffington Post
- 6 Ways to Decrease Your Suffering @ Tiny Buddha
- 7 Things Buddha Taught Us to Overcome Suffering @ The Way of Meditation
- How to Ease Suffering in Your Life @ Lifeleap Institute
- How to Ease Suffering Using Mindful Awareness @ You Have a Calling
- How to Find Meaning in Suffering @ Scientific America
- How to Stop Suffering from Painful Emotions @ Psych Central
- Overcoming Unnecessary Suffering @ Psychology Today
- Viktor Frankl on Finding Meaning in Suffering @ Intellectual Takeout