As I talk about pain, I am not referring to physical pain or such pain that can be felt if you touch a hot stove. When you feel the heat from the stove, you quickly remove your hand. You responded to an external situation by removing your hand when you felt the heat. The pain I am referring to is the mental-emotional pain which is as a result of your internal response to a situation.
You are upset – understandably upset – about a situation you consider undesirable. You get angry and question how unfair life is to you. You are not at ease with the current situation. Your thoughts have taken over you and your body has responded with the feeling of distress. You are in pain but you do not stop there. You are in resistance to the pain so you deny it. The consequence is suffering – pain plus resistance. The pain is real and you are fighting against what is real, what is. You suffer.
A common form of resistance is people rejecting their emotions. You feel anger towards your brother for instance and instead of acknowledging the feeling of anger which is there, you deny it. So you experience an inner conflict with your anger as you continue to harbour the anger. If you want a change for the better, acceptance is the first step. But many people find acceptance difficult. Perhaps they have these beliefs about acceptance unconsciously:
- If I accept this painful situation, I will give in to it and it will take over my life.
- If I do not accept this it will miraculously change and I will not have to face it.
- If I accept this painful situation, I am accepting a life of pain without end.
But how do you move on to problem solving without first accepting that what you call problem is? Let us assume you do not like the colour brown. Then you move into a house where the room is brown. If you refuse to accept that the room is brown because you do not like the colour, you will be fighting reality and that will make you suffer. You deny the colour of the room which you do not like while still living in the room. The room remains brown. You get so caught up in denial that you do not change anything. Accepting the brownness of the room is the first step to having that room painted with a colour you like. Acceptance is not approval. It is not the same thing as judging something good. Acceptance is acknowledging what is. That is the beginning of your freedom from suffering.
The way your child died, the way your father treated you, the way your husband cheated on you, these may be hard to accept. The memory comes with pain and so you avoid the painful thoughts. When this avoidance becomes habitual, it turns to denial. Denial makes it difficult for you to be aware of the pain in yourself or in others. So here you are hoping to eliminate the pain through denial. Ironically, the denial perpetuates the pain.