Most of us experience moderate pain, and some of us have to endure chronic, intense pain for extended periods. Pain is there for a reason—to warn us of harm, to let us know that something is wrong, or to stop us from doing further damage. It’s generally not pleasant, and is sometimes difficult or impossible to endure. But pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is a signal, and suffering is our reaction to it. In some cases, it’s possible to control or reinterpret that reaction and decrease or cease our suffering. It’s certainly easier said than done, and it may not work for everyone or in every circumstance, but it’s worth exploring.
Even though our feelings are intertwined with the feelings, words, and actions of others, the responsibility for them is ultimately ours and ours alone. There are extreme situations in which another person can significantly impact our emotional state, but we are still responsible for what we do in response to that impact. We should never give that responsibility to anyone else. When we abdicate responsibility for our emotions and give that responsibility to others, we give them power over us—power that is rightfully ours. Realizing this can give us a great sense of freedom: freedom to act in ways that will give us happiness, fulfillment, and peace, and freedom from others’ control over us.
The past year was challenging for many. Most of us had unprecedented circumstances that we had to deal with and adapt to. Some of us faced more dire circumstances than others, including the presence of COVID and the resulting illness and loss of loved ones; the specter of losing our livelihoods; and the stress and uncertainty related to hurricanes, wildfires, and the alarming political landscape. It was not a relaxing year. How do we cope when everything seems out of whack and there are multiple sources of anxiety and stress? How can we learn to be resilient? It’s certainly not a switch we can turn on when we need it. We have to take the time to process what we’re going through while at the same time figuring out how we can best adapt to the specific effects of what we’re experiencing. This takes reflection, perspective, and proactivity. It also takes courage—we have to face the new reality and accept the changes that are happening.
Sometimes it feels like the world’s gone crazy and you don’t understand people at all. You can’t imagine why things are going a certain way, and you feel a loss of control, with the associated anxiety and stress. You hear and read people saying things that make you furious and frustrated. You can’t imagine how they could think and say those things. You look at events and see them ending in disaster—disaster that could be easily foreseen if only people would listen and understand. It’s easy to stay in a state of simmering rage, along with healthy doses of incredulity and bewilderment. During these times, it’s more important than ever to understand your reactions and emotional state, and take steps toward healthy and constructive responses to what you’re going through.
We have to have some self-control or we wouldn’t be able to get by in life. We (at least most of us) have to get ourselves up in the morning, go to work, and generally do a lot of things that aren’t consistent with our impulse of the moment. So, some self-control is vital, but many of us get too hung up when we’re not as disciplined as we believe we should be, or when we’re disciplined about things that aren’t that beneficial to us. Having a good sense of our self-control and discipline and how it impacts our lives can help us develop an appropriate level of discipline and target it more effectively.