The more people I work with, the more I’m convinced of one fundamental truth:
Being a human is sad, and lonely, and deeply painful.
Before I started working with clients on the stories of their lives and bodies, I assumed that only people who were raised a certain (wrong) way, neglected, or traumatised would end up with low self-worth, a feeling of isolation, and profound suffering.
I was wrong.
Trauma or no trauma, we all had childhoods, and we’ve all experienced loneliness, and we’ve all felt disappointed, hurt, unimportant, stupid, or heartbroken at some point along the way.
You might want to compare your suffering (favorably or unfavorably) against everyone else’s suffering– people often do. But I don’t see any value in doing so; the truth is, each of us has suffered.
We are afraid people won’t love us, we are afraid people will leave us, and we are afraid of death and dying because again– we do that shit alone.
An in the meantime, we ache.
We ache at the state of our imperfect relationships, at the state of our broken families, and at the state of the warring and disintegrating world.
We ache with the sense that some people have it easy, that some people are free of suffering, and are “the lucky ones.”
The worst part is that we feel alone in our suffering, and alone in our aching. We know it’s not “logical,” and sometimes we don’t know why things hurt so much, or why they feel so hard, but we keep it all to ourselves, because we’re sure nobody wants to hear that kind of thing, and that nobody would understand anyway.
There is so much pain in the human experience, in each human body.
Most of us have a story, deep down (some of us waaaaay deep down) about this pain.
Some people will blame others for their suffering, wishing that life was different and bad things didn’t happen, or feeling that somehow bad things only ever happen to them.
Others will blame themselves, turning all that pain inward and launching it directly at their own hearts, taking responsibility for things that they could never have controlled, and believing that if only they had been “better,” things would have been different.
Still others ignore their pain, spending an enormous amount of time and energy repressing and pushing it way down, or trying to offset it with any available tools of comfort, numbing, or distraction (think: love, sex, drugs, booze, self-harm, binging, dieting).
I know I’m hardly the first writer to contemplate the dark abyss of human suffering, but I do have a slightly unusual take on it.
Being a human is inherently sad, and lonely, and deeply painful.
But that sadness, loneliness, and pain aren’t bad things.
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience.
Take this quote by Mark Manson (whose book I highly recommend reading), in which he explains that by attempting to purposefully have a positive experience, you create a negative experience for yourself, and vice versa.
Most of us have been taught that we’re supposed to be “happy.”
Nowhere is it taught that it is each of us has a God-given right to the pursuit of pain, loneliness, and suffering– but it should be! That right is inextricably linked to the pursuit of happiness, because both pain and happiness are fundamental parts of the human experience.
What if, instead of repressing or distracting from these “dark” feelings that we all share, we started facing them head-on, and talking about them with others? Imagine finding people with whom we could connect about how disconnected we were feeling!
What if we welcomed our sadness and loneliness at the door with a cup of tea and a blanket? What if we finally allowed our dark material to come home?
This would be the beginning of healing, acceptance, reclaiming your full power, and feeling whole again.
Being a human is painful. Deeply, powerfully painful.
I believe we all need to increase our capacity for how much it all hurts.
How much discomfort can you tolerate? How much pain can you hold and feel, without collapsing? How much of your own feelings can you tolerate?
This is a skill that gets better with practice, I promise.
And the cool thing is that by increasing your capacity for pain, you’re also increasing your capacity for everything else– joy, love, desire, and happiness, for example.
Because the human experience is also extraordinarily beautiful, delightful, hilarious, and full of connection.
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