“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” -Haruki Murakami
Over the years, I have often been asked about what I have observed to be common themes in my work. While there are a few, the desire to avoid pain is one of the most prominent ones. None of us, including myself, want to feel the empty pang in our stomachs or the heaviness in our hearts that personal suffering brings. Evading reality has become an extremely profitable market for businesses and increasingly easier for us to accomplish. You can shop online, have alcohol delivered to your house, text a past lover, pop Xanax, eat comfort food, or escape by binging on Netflix. We have created a culture full of flippant phrases that further encourages avoidance. Some of these phrases are: The only way to get over someone is to get under someone else, there are plenty of fish in the sea, emotions are for the weak, other people have it worse, and be thankful for what you have. All of these imply that feeling happy is the goal we should all be aiming for in life.
The goal of being happy is contrary to reason. This way of thinking is at the heart of why so many people are dissatisfied and disconnected to others. We need to feel heartbreak, loneliness, disappointment, and every distressing feeling we have in order to be competent emotional humans. We do not move on from people, we learn to live without them. We are able to feel joy when we feel the depth of grief and we learn to grieve when we sit in the messiness of it. We need to learn to tolerate it so that it will eventually lessen or stop altogether. When we escape with the instant band aids we have at our fingertips, we only bury the wound rather than allowing it to heal with a scar. Scars from life are not avoidable. They serve to make us informed about ourselves, others, and the world around us. They make us stronger than we were before. Feeling pain is how we heal.
There is also a desire to stop others from feeling discomfort. It is frequent that parents get new puppies right after the family dog dies to protect their children from the loss. It is important for all of us to remember that sadness is reparative. Do not feel pity for your grieving loved ones or talk them out of it. Hug them, sit with them, and most of all honor their pain because it is how they will reach deep-rooted contentment in their lives.