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"Pain versus Suffering"

Posted Sep 29 2008 11:55pm

I know that many of you didn't know what I was ranting about in my Are You Suffering post. A very sweet anonymous reader sent me some articles that explained what I was talking about in a much better fashion, so I though I would share them with you. There are two articles, so the second one, I will share tomorrow.

The articles are written by Robert Augustus Masters. He is a psychologist that underwent a hospitalization for an intense psychological crisis.

Though pain and suffering are often thought of as being much the same, they differ greatly from each other.

Pain is fundamentally just unpleasant sensation. Suffering, on the other hand, is something we are doing with our pain. Pain comes, often inescapably so, with life. It often also is, especially in its awakening or alerting capacity, necessary. Suffering, however, is far less necessary than we might think.

When we cannot sufficiently distract or distance ourselves from our pain, we generally turn it into suffering. How? By overdramatizing our pain. We make an unpleasantly gripping story out of it, a tale in which our hurt “I” all but automatically assumes the throne of self. I hurt, therefore I am -- this is suffering’s core credo.

In so doing, we are simply identifying with our pain, overpersonalizing it.

Where pain is consciously felt hurt, suffering is the manipulation of that hurt into drama, wherein we’re likely so busy acting out -- and being literally occupied by -- our hurt role that we’ve little or no motivation to stand apart from it.

In the myopic theatrics of suffering, pain itself mostly just stagnates, like an unwanted exhibit in an art gallery. It is not really touched. As the centerpiece and supposed raison d’être of suffering, pain is kept from any genuine healing. We may feel close to our pain when we are busy suffering, but it is not the kind of closeness that heals. It is, in fact, an unwelcome proximity, through which we generally just reinforce our suffering, if only because of our sheer desperation to be elsewhere (like in some kind of fantasized immunity from pain, or similar dreamland of our suffering-centered “I”).

The degree to which we turn our pain into suffering is the degree to which we obstruct our own healing.

When we’re busy suffering, we are all but bereft of healthy detachment. We’re then removed from the naked reality of our pain -- for our attention is generally more on our storyline than on the raw, nonconceptual sense of our pain -- but not removed in a way that permits us to focus more clearly on what is actually going on.

As such, suffering is unhealthy separation from our pain. Suffering is pain that’s gone to mind, pain that’s doing time in mental cells, mental hells.

The more intimate we are with our pain, the less we suffer.

To work effectively with our suffering, we need both to stand apart from its script and to cease distancing ourselves from our pain. Suffering may seem to keep us near to our pain, but it actually keeps us from getting as close to our pain as we need to, if we are live a more liberated life.

Suffering houses pain, but keeps it in the dark. When we turn on the lights, the dramatics of suffering become significantly transparent. Then the uncensored facticity of our pain gets our full attention, particularly at the level where it is but unpleasant sensation. Then we can enter our pain with care, clarity, and suitable precision, getting to know it from the inside -- its fluxing weave and interplay of shape, color, temperature, texture, directionality, intensity, pressure, location, layering, and so on.

Often when we say we’re in pain, we’re not really in our pain, but rather are only closer to it than we’d like. In fact, we’re outside it.

It is in the conscious and caring entry into our pain that we begin to find some real freedom from our pain. The hurt may remain, but our relationship to that hurt will have changed to the point where it’s no longer such a problem to us, and in fact may even become a doorway into

What Really Matters.

The healing of pain is found in pain itself.

As we become more intimate with our pain, we find that we are less troubled by it. Suffering is, among other things, a refusal to develop any intimacy with our pain. In fact, suffering only jails our pain.But the cage door is open, already open, if we just turn around, away from the screens upon which our suffering projects its stories. Then we begin to awaken, to shed more and more of the entrapping dreams we habitually animate. Awareness upstages suffering, dissolving its grip on us, taking us to the heart, the core, the epicenter, of our pain.

And there, in that place of hurt, we meet not more hurt, but more us. More healing, more peace, more sacred welcome.

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