Pain Is Inevitable But Suffering Is Not: Untangling From The Identification

Losing a job, the birthing pain of a mother, becoming physically or mentally unwell, death and similar things are Pains that we are certain to face in life as a human being. But the question is if Pain is inevitable then is Suffering (the way we respond to Pain) also inevitable? If Suffering is inevitable then, of course, we just need to sit and worry and feel miserable about Pain all the time. But the fact is that Suffering is not inevitable and hence we can respond to Pain in a wise manner.

As a Mindfulness and Compassion practitioner and teacher, I have always been inquisitive and excited about the words Pain and Suffering which has lead me to experiment and realize a few wonderful facts about them. Let’s get started.

So we all understand that some form of Pain in our lives is uncertain like feeling unwell or growing old, feeling anger or disappointment Etc. And generally, our reaction towards such Pain is one of worry, feeling miserable i.e. wishing it did not happen, a kind of resistance towards the experience of Pain. This way of reacting to our Pains gives us an illusion that there is no way out and it’s all downhill. The good news is yes of course Pain is inevitable but Suffering (the way we respond to Pain) is not.

To understand this we need to investigate the true Nature of Pain i.e. does Pain stay forever or does it come and go? With the help of an ancient practice like Mindfulness, we begin to realize that the true nature of all things including our moods, weather conditions Etc is to come and go or change from one form to another. Similarly, the true Nature of Pain is to come and go, that means yes it certainly comes but eventually it also goes away (sooner or later). This signifies the law of Impermanence. 

At this juncture an important question to ask is if something is impermanent then why do we react to it with worry or anger or by feeling miserable? The reason is because we feel the experience of Pain is Me itself or It is happening to Me, here we are getting completely identified with Pain or Fused with Pain. When we become Fused with Pain we react with aversion wishing it to be gone and the result is that we experience more Pain. In Buddhist Psychology this is called Identification. 

There is a need for us to untangle from this identification, which requires us to step back and watch Pain as just as Pain and not something that is Happening to Me itself. We watch Pain as just a Happening. When we step back and simply watch like this we begin to realize that in reality Pain or the experience of Pain in itself is not bad but our reaction towards it makes it worse, thereby becoming Fused. 

Mindfulness helps us step back and simply witness Pain which reduces our Suffering. Mindfulness helps us Non-Identify with Pain.

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