Pain is an attention getter. It tells you that something is wrong, something needs your attention, or something needs to change.
Pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience simply because we humans have a tendency to hurt when we don’t get what we want. In that way, we are all eternal children.
When we are in pain, it is because we are experiencing a sense of loss – a separation between us and the thing we want or need. Because unity is at the core of our true reality, separation hurts more than anything else we can ever experience.
If we are wise and have learned how to deal with our pain in constructive ways, we can return to the comfort of unity: unity within, unity with our situation, unity with Life.
There is a place, however, where pain becomes much more than a temporary sense of loss and separation. That place is where suffering dwells.
Unfortunately, we are emotionally and biologically designed to unconsciously recreate our past painful experiences (at least until we begin creating new, more powerful, pleasant experiences).
When we have experienced a particular kind of painful event enough times, our reaction to similar experiences becomes subject to subconscious control. That is where suffering begins.
In my book, From Fear to Love , I discuss how subconscious associations trigger certain biological responses in our bodies. When we are in the middle of an experience, we are both consciously and unconsciously deciding what the experience means. On a subconscious/unconscious level, we are interpreting what is happening now by virtue of relating our current experiences to our past experiences.
The subconscious mind, which is so closely related to the body that the two are difficult to distinguish, relies heavily upon what past experiences have taught it. The personal subconscious is much like a large computer database with a tendency to keep running the same programs over and over again. The only way to change the old programs is to consciously override them.
To begin changing the subconscious programming that gives rise to your suffering, you will need some understanding of how pain becomes suffering.
As our experiences in Life are unfolding, the subconscious mind (which accounts for about 80% of your behaviorial responses) is continuously making associations. We interpret the meaning of experiences as we are having them; and the subconscious mind is always relating to something it already knows by virtue of experience. Something happens, and the subconscious mind thinks, “This is like that.” Specifically, this experience (what is happening now) is like that experience (what happened in the past).
Once the association is made, an entire host of biochemical messengers are released in our bodies (hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). These biochemical messengers give rise to our feelings.
Feelings are the body’s response to what we think (consciously and subconsciously) about what is happening.
The message that these biochemical messengers are carrying goes like this, “This is like that; so I will now feel the way I felt when that happened.”
If we have felt the same kind of pain, over and over again (in similar situations), what we feel next is not just the way we felt the first time but the pain of all the times we have had “this kind of experience.” The avalanche of pain and hopelessness that follows creates a level of morbid feeling that is unbearable; and that is when we suffer.
We can stop re-creating our suffering by doing what is necessary to realize the painful association and by making the choices that are necessary to reprogram our subconscious mind. To do this, we must become more consciously aware of what is happening inside us and decipher the old associations in a way that allows us to make new choices and begin creating new experiences. This is not an easy process; and only the strongest among us will ever do it.
It means making choices that can be frightening; making choices that require us to let go of what we already have (that which is painfully not enough); and, sometimes, it means making choices that may hurt other people (the most difficult kind of choice there is). But, at the end of the day every day, each of us is the only one who lives with our own pain and suffering. It is up to us to change what we can no longer live with.
We do the world a favor by doing what helps us live healthier, happier lives. Remember as much in times when difficult choices become necessary.
Like happiness, suffering is a choice (albeit an unconscious one). The more conscious we can become about the suffering we choose, the better off we are. For one day, we will have had enough of suffering; and we will do what is necessary to alleviate it.
In this realm of form, freedom is not easily given or taken. Be brave enough to be free. Liberate yourself from what no longer serves you.
Many Blessings of Love & Light,
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