Personal Growth and Suffering

“True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection.” 

― Michael SingerThe Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself


How would you react if someone asked you: do you enjoy suffering? Most of us would reply no so confidently that the answer would incorporate a roll of the eyes, an of course not type of addendum. We feel so sure that what we want is to be free from suffering, yet cannot help clinging onto our wounds, disappointments, perceived defeats with just as much conviction. When a moment of relief, forgiveness or letting go approaches, we stave it off. Hold on, we seem to say, and proceed to remind ourselves why we were upset in the first place, prolonging our unhappiness and reaffirming, re-justifying our pain. …And that’s why I was right to feel hurt. Anyone in my position would be upset. I can’t believe that X wouldn’t understand why what they did was hurtful. Etc. 

We’re so afraid that letting go will take something away from us, will rob us of who we think we are, that we retain our pain because it is at least familiar and safe. Unpleasant, yes, but familiar and safe. We think we know what we need to feel better: I was so embarrassed, I can never go back / I’ll never speak to X again / I deserve a heartfelt apology for being so offended. Often we look to external spaces to satisfy these needs: avoiding something/someone/somewhere, demanding a script delivered by an offender. We create rules, preferences and biases in our lives to try and prevent future wounds of the same kind. 

If you’re going to feel pain — and of course you will — you may as well make it work for you. How can we turn suffering into a tool to help us grow? How can we be more open while recognizing what it is we truly need, what our healthy boundaries are? Once we start to contemplate the often uncomfortable reasons behind our initial reaction — anger often has roots in insecurity, fear, and ego — we find new ways to let go of our pain, of taking things personally, and open ourselves to growth. This is a kindness unto ourselves. The kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we are to one another. Therein lies the path to happiness. The stagnancy of clinging, of rehashing, doesn’t lead anywhere at all. 

Drew VillanoComment