At a recent meeting I attended, a speaker made a distinction between pain and suffering. According to her, pain is a part of the ordinary living of life. It is the common experience of all human beings. We have no ability to order our existence so that pain is excluded. Suffering on the other hand is avoidable. Suffering is the mixing of all our experiences, good and bad with a diseased mind set.
For example, if I get a work promotion, it can trigger a suffering response based on my feeling guilty that my friend did not get promoted. Getting a promotion is a good thing, but my distorted mind set can use the good thing to provoke misery. Let me illustrate.
In my mind, I have a picture of a farm kitchen. On the wood burning stove in the kitchen, is a very large pot. In the pot is a soup some people call back burner soup. The pot has been on the stove for many days. Each day, soup is served from the pot to the family. Every day, fresh leftovers and more water are added to the pot. It is kept simmering constantly.
The soup is continuously evolving. Sometimes the soup is a little better, sometimes it is a little worse, but back burner soup is never wonderful.
When leftovers are added to the soup, they quickly lose their distinctiveness. The blended together flavors of the soup take over. The new leftovers become dominated by all that has gone into the pot in the past.
In the back burner soup of my mind, the events of my day do not determine whether or not I am suffering. An event may well cause me pain, but it will not result in suffering unless I process it in an unhealthy way.
Happy events can also cause me suffering. Pleasant or unpleasant, today’s events, plunged into my sick mind are completely dominated by the distasteful soup made up of all the distorted interpretations I have put on the events of my life for many years.
Pain is inevitable. However, pain is manageable. It is just pain. It won’t kill me. However, stirring and mixing my pain into my sick thinking causes suffering.
Suffering of that sort is deadly. It can literally kill me. Whether or not it kills me, physically, suffering will inevitably murder my life one day at a time.
I am going through an experience in my family that to me is about as bad as I can imagine. In a way, it is my worse nightmare coming true.
I called a friend a few days ago. She suggested that I sit with my pain and fears instead of incessantly trying to push them out of my consciousness. I took her suggestion. Here are the things I learned from sitting with my fears.
1. My fears have lost their power. They can not ruin my life. They are not going to push me into another depression. They can not keep me from enjoying my life.
They cause me pain. They do really hurt, but I can sit with them in safety. My fears are no longer necessarily a threat.
Years ago, my fears completely dominated me. However, that was when I was a little boy. The fears were big and overwhelming. I was small and vulnerable.
Now I am a mature man. I am very strong. I can safely sit with my fears.
2. My fears have something to say to me. They are saying, “Please process me. I have been waiting for you to deal with me for many decades. Can you finally deal with me now?”
“Deal with me”, is all my fears have to say. All the other messages come from my disease. My disease jumps onto my fears in order to say various versions of “THE SKY IS FALLING. THE SKY IS FALLING.”
It is these predictions of total disaster that cause my suffering. When I allow my fears to fall into the back burner soup by not processing them, the fears immediately assume the character of the soup. They become sick, unnecessary, suffering.
3. When I concentrate on listening to the voice of my fears, I notice something astounding. Their frightened voice is my own voice. It is my voice at age five It is the tender, wonderful, timid voice of five year old Georgie.
Georgie is asking the powerful adult George to be his parent. Georgie’s blood parents completely lacked the ability to help him. In truth, his parents were asking Georgie to be the parent and help them handle their fears.
George finally has the power to deal with Georgie’s terror. If he chooses to do so, George can listen calmly, turn the fears over to God with Georgie, and then find some way to celebrate the victory together.
4. I do not want my diseased panic to cause me to ignore the voice of Georgie. That his pain was ignored back then is a tragedy. I want to make sure Georgie gets heard today.