Therapy Blog

Pain is a Feeling . . . Suffering is a Thought

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Pain and suffering are not the same. Consider this for a moment. When you stub your toe, you feel pain physically. Suffering, however, is what happens in your head when you judge the pain, the situation, your clumsiness, or even the sidewalk itself! We’ve all done it . . . “that %*&&## stupid sidewalk!” Of course, the sidewalk is just being a sidewalk; it’s not stupid or trying to hurt you! But in that moment of suffering, your thoughts go askew and you don’t feel in control of your ‘self.’

Once you become aware of the difference, you can practice mindfulness of pain and discomfort to help you remedy it, rather than making it worse by thinking yourself into suffering.

In pain? Show up anyway!

A couple of years ago, I was training in a martial arts class that is very real-world in its approach. I had resisted a fall, and in doing that, managed to break my tibia. I knew immediately that there was a problem . . . the loud POP was a great indicator, but the pain was another. And there I was . . . suffering and making the pain worse by getting all tensed up. My teacher came over and matter of factly leaned over and said, “You’ve obviously got one injury” pointing to my leg, “don’t make it two” he said, pointing to my head. And that was that. I stopped the suffering, stabilized the leg and got to the ER for my super-cool space boot. But apparently, I was not done suffering! I decided not to go to the next class because, well, I had broken my tibia! Refusing to join in my pity party, my teacher told me not to skip class just because of an injury . . . after all, should I get attacked in the real world, I’d still need to know how to move around on a broken tibia.

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