FEBRUARY 2021 - Avoid Suffering?
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
"The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” - Thomas Merton
There is a significant amount of research that supports the reality that dealing with painful life conditions and challenges is not an easy task.
Our development through evolution has programmed our brains to avoid discomfort, pain, and unpleasant issues as a survival strategy. This was based upon the fact that we needed to be alert to and avoid danger in order to survive.
However, few, if any, life challenges, mental health conditions, or any physical conditions as well (particularly trauma, depression, and anxiety) can actually be ever avoided or fled from. In fact, they must be managed and dealt with in a way that we gain mastery and agency over the situations and conditions.
As the Thomas Merton quote implies, avoidance leads to more adverse consequences. There is research supporting the fact that experiential avoidance (examples of which are trying not to think about it, trying to avoid situations that remind you of it, beating yourself up for having the condition or the suffering), leads to more adverse consequences both physically and psychologically.
My 40 years of clinical practice, university teaching, and professional consultation support my strong belief that the only way through a situation is through it.
So, if you are interested in carving new paths and finding new tools to go through it with an opportunity for greater happiness, calmness, joy and life appreciation, you may be interested in my therapeutic approaches and philosophies, of which I will share a few:
1. Using and learning mindfulness skills can/will move you towards where you want to be versus away.
2. Gaining an understanding and learning to identify the traps and loops we get stuck in that lead us to frustration, distress and general life misery.
3. Learning how to open up one’s life experiences to ride the waves and surf vs. getting stuck and pulled in by the undertow.