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Addressing Your Suffering

by Vanessa Emily Rose Wilcox 3 months ago in selfcare
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An Exposition of Suffering and Our Avoidant Inclinations.

Memorial Hospital Central, Colorado Springs, CO. Photo credit Insta: @inspirationequity.

Suffering At a Glance

The Oxford dictionary defines suffering as, the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. Meanwhile, distress can be defined as, extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain; suffering caused by lack of money or the basic necessities of life. In medicine it is defined as a state of physical strain, exhaustion, or, in particular, breathing difficulty.

For all intents and purposes suffering and distress are closely related and are often ignored until it's unavoidable to address because, we as humans, tend to compare our distress & suffering to our past and other people then dismiss the emotions because, at least it's not as bad as Sally's life, or it's not as bad as that one time... And when we dismiss our own suffering, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our inward indicators that something must change. The level of suffering does not matter nearly as much as our response to the indications, that we call feelings.

While addressing our feelings, it's important to not minimize the fact that we are feeling something, regardless of the intensity and the feeling itself. Our feelings are biological & chemical responses that are created from the situations happening in our environment. Feelings have kept us safe for as long as humans have existed because at the root of it all, our feelings tell us to eat, drink, attempt, create, fight, flight, or freeze, and provide many other insights as to how we can best respond for an outcome that's optimal for our survival. With this knowledge, we can take a proactive approach to reducing our suffering by acknowledging the discomfort when it originally presents itself, rather than to dismiss it at onset.

Acknowledgement

Emotions are not always enjoyable to experience. It makes sense why many of us cope with our feelings by bottling them up, running from them, or numbing. We cope because most of us don't have a great understanding of what exactly our feelings are trying to tell us, nor how we can help bring resolution to our discomfort. This is the very reason why many people turn to drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and opiates. These drugs in fact, suppress your pain receptors in your brain and allow more room for the better feeling chemicals to relieve your very stressed mind and body. Unfortunately, numbing the pain does not solve the issue. So, how do we change our coping strategies, and what do we do when we don't know what to do?

Once, in counseling, I described my feelings as an unexpected baby that's been placed upon my doorstep by a stranger. The stranger rings the door to indicate the delivery, and upon my answer, the baby begins to cry. This baby comes with a note that says, "You are responsible for this baby. You may not bring them to an orphanage, nor fire department. IT IS YOURS TO HANDLE. HANDLE WITH CARE." In that moment, this baby needs something. I have no infant materials, no baby food, no diapers - I am not prepared for this miracle, nor do I want it in my life at this moment in time, no offense, little baby. To which my counselor replied, "Okay, so you've got an unexpected challenge. As you said, this is yours, and you can't get rid of it. But do you know how to handle a baby? Do you know where to find a blanket in your home? If you had to, could you blend some fruit and veggies to make baby food? Could you go drive to the store and buy a baby bottle, formula, and diapers and follow the instructions to provide baby with what it needs?" Her point was that when we feel a feeling, we don't need to allow the feeling to be all consuming. We as individuals are far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. How many times have you said, "I can't" when you really mean "I don't want to."? We do this to ourselves because truthfully, it takes effort to address your feelings with tenderness and love. It's like a muscle, and if you haven't worked on it in a while, it's going to feel weird, uncomfortable, and definitely tiring to start back up. Oh, and don't forget the sore spots!

Getting Friendly with Our Emotions

There are many ways to address your suffering. So, for entertainment and connectivity, I'll share a bit about how I started my journey towards addressing my own suffering. If I was not a fighter, I was a runner, and it had always been because of intense emotions regarding something I deeply cared about, mixed with a complete lack of healthy coping skills. Neither running nor fighting got me very far, except to the next chapter where I could choose to change my Modus Operandi from fighting to running or vice versa. I caught the symptoms of the patterns; the feelings of internal resentment, the lack of acknowledgement from myself and others, the anger and frustration that something needs to change, followed by my impulsivity to make changes and efforts to address my own suffering. As if, there was a singular dose of kryptonite that would end my turmoil and resolve it for once and for all. Only to find myself in despair. If my efforts in the moment cannot make the change I desire, nothing will, I declare! The black and white thinking, the overgeneralizing, magnifying, and personalization consumed me, until exhaustion was the only feeling left.

While this pattern allowed me to survive my teens and early twenty's, it was not a proactive approach to my feelings, and it consumed far more time, energy, & effort, and often damaged and eroded relationships along the way. Finally, after repeating the pattern for an ungodly number of times, my counselor said to me with a sense of urgency in her voice,

Vanessa, it's like you're driving on the road to get to this destination of peace, and comfort, and happiness. You are driving fast, swerving through traffic to get to your destination, and your urgency to get there is completely understandable -you're rushing to relief. But you start picking up the speed and you're going 90 miles an hour at this point, when you hit a pothole and you're forced to pull over. Then, instead of driving, you have to deal with your flat tire and possible broken axle, just because you started feeling the urgency increase. You know that going 90 isn't going to be the factor that gets you to your destination any quicker. So how do you resolve the bigger problem of feeling the urgency, when you get driving on the road again?

Subtly frustrated, and honestly relieved that she held the mirror up for me to see my actions for what they were, I didn't have an answer to her question. I was perplexed. The answer was so obvious, yet so difficult because the response to my feelings had been engrained in me. Although, the metaphor hit home. It allowed me to realize that driving faster was not the solution, it only created more problems. I realized that the moment when I feel the urgency to step on the gas, what I really needed to do was first realize that I'm feeling the sensation of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear about something. Briefly sitting with the emotions as they arise, day in and day out, allows me to take my foot off the gas, and even realize when I need to pull over to take a break. Acknowledging your suffering does not mean you have to do something about it in the moment. Acknowledgement is the act of validating and allowing the presence of an emotion.

Practice:

When you feel a sensation that you would typically shy away from, try to sit with the feeling for one minute. Feel where you feel the sensations in your body and allow yourself to take some deep breaths through the feelings. Then, after the first minute, try to identify the feeling with an emotion. Often, we mislabel our emotions which actually discredits our feelings. This happens because we misinterpret our feelings and tend to react rather than to respond to a situation. However, giving yourself a minute to sit with your feelings and working to properly identify them is helpful because, even if you mislabel your feelings for some time thereafter, you are creating new neuropathways that will help you change your response behavior when unpleasant sensations arise.

Repeating this action requires mindfulness to your body, then the effort to make the decision to sit with it. At first, it really won't feel like you're doing anything different or helpful, and if you continue to use the practice, you'll cultivate a habit that acts as a healthier alternative to avoidant inclinations. Acknowledgement is an act of self-love, and in the words of the great RuPaul, Honey, if you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

selfcare

About the author

Vanessa Emily Rose Wilcox

Transgender🏳️‍⚧️⚧️ She/Her

Owner of Inspiration Equity Limited

"Only you can make it happen!"

NLP Certified Life Coach 💪

Funding your inspiration through open-minded writing, pictures, and coaching sessions!

https://mycrd.is/inspired

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