One of my big revelations in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
happens after my own therapist, Wendell, interrupts my obsessing about my ex-boyfriend by standing up, walking across his office, and lightly kicking my foot with his long leg.
“What was that
?” I asked.
“Well, you seem like you’re enjoying the experience of suffering, so I thought I’d help you out with that.”
He wisely explained that there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is beyond our controlit’s part of being a person in the world. We’re all going to experience pain at times, but we don’t have to suffer
so much. “You’re not choosing the pain, but you’re choosing the suffering,” Wendell said.
He was right. I was creating my own suffering by telling the story of Boyfriend over and over, by Googling him and making up stories about what I’d foundstories that inevitably provided evidence for a bigger story: I wasn’t lovable enough.
Our pain holds important clues about what’s not working in our lives and what we might start to change. Nobody likes to feel it, though, so we push it away any way we can. We gloss over painful feelings or we lash out at others because of it. More often, we turn those feelings inward and berate ourselves. All of this serves to take the pain, which may have been initially helpful, and twist it into something more like suffering.
So how do you shift out of suffering?
Here’s where reading between the lines can help. By examining a few pain points in your stories, you begin to see what that pain is telling you and where you’re creating
suffering. Consider this exercise
our workbook’s version of Wendell’s kick.