How do you respond to suffering?

IMAG0199I woke up to the news about the Paris events.

‘It’s only 7am, and I already feel depressed,’ I complained to my husband who broke the news to me.

When I hear news like that I flinch. I want to shut him out, as if stopping him saying those things and sharing his pain is likely to change what had happened.

I realise that for many years I struggled to look pain in the eye. Witnessing suffering is excruciating. It’s like seeing blood. If it’s my own, it’s not a problem. If it’s someone else’s, I hyperventilate. There is a sense of helplessness in seeing others people’s difficult experiences. I feel shame admitting this, but for a long time, I preferred not to look at painful things at all. I stopped watching news – why bother? There wasn’t much I could do about wars and disasters, right?

Denial hasn’t helped anyone though. What’s more, it harmed me. When we close our eyes on difficult things, it affects our vision. We struggle to see a complete picture. We start shutting down and disassociating.

Suffering happens.

Today, instead of flinching and shutting my eyes tightly, I’m making a conscious effort to stay awake. Every time I feel a stab in my heart whilst reading a Facebook feed or a blog post about Paris attacks I let myself feel it. Of course, I feel scared. Oh, and there is anger too. Is that you, despair?

What’s also different today is that I’m giving myself compassion for everything I feel. Instead of shutting down completely, I say:

‘I’m so sorry there is so much pain in this world.’

‘I’m so sorry people suffer.’

‘I’m so sorry people died in Paris.’

‘I’m so sorry no one is safe.’

‘I’m so sorry those events created so much fear.’

‘I’m so sorry there is so much despair.’

‘I’m so sorry … ’ The list goes on and on.

If you are struggling today, see whether you could give yourself compassion for your own pain. We can’t always stop other people’s suffering. We can, however, deal with our own responses to that suffering.

Give yourself compassion

P.S. ‘I’m so sorry’ phrases above is the Compassion Key technique developed by Edward Mannix.

12 thoughts on “How do you respond to suffering?

  1. I know how you feel. I found out last night but somehow, it took all night to sink in and I woke up feeling so low I had to drag myself out of bed and be silent for 3 hours before I felt the need to let it all out in a post.
    It is difficult to feel helpless.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I am like you, I try to block out the bad news and live in a bubble. But sometimes my bubble doesn’t even protect me from the world and news such as what is going on in Paris. It boggles my mind, and I wonder what must be going through the minds of the people in Paris. It makes me think back to the attack on the Twin Towers and how helpless and violated we felt as Americans.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I just read a quote on facebook: ‘Worrying won’t stop bad thing from happening. It just stops you from enjoying the good.’ I think it sums up my struggle of hiding in the bubble. Because I didn’t feel any happier. All the difficult stuff is still in our field. And if I don’t pay attention, it’s likely to create a lot of ‘noise’ to get my attention.
      What a day today… I’ve been feeling so much grief. Thank you so much for reading and connecting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post this morning is excellent!! I am shocked, dismayed, and angry! I totally do not understand why people slaughter innocent people. What did this prove, besides the fact that the ISIS are bullies? This destruction has gone on for thousands of years. How in the world do we stop it?

    As I told Solveig, many years ago several members of my distant family including a pregnant mom, and two toddlers, their dad, and their cousin were violently murdered, execution style. The murder was never solved. We don’t even know why they were killed. This slaughter in Paris brings back my feelings of shock, anger, and dismay. The question “WHY?” still rolls around in my brain.

    Now, more and more Americans are carrying guns… but what does this prove? It won’t solve the problem. I too want to go stick my head under my blankets and pray that the pain will go away. Thank you for your lovely heartwarming post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Gwynn, your reaction is understandable, especially in light of your family’s history.
      I came very close to being in a war zone as a teenager. We got very lucky – the opposing troops were pushed away. They were only one village away from our town. When things like that happen, the fear can linger for a long time…
      I’m glad my post warmed your heart today. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I found out almost immediately as I was on Twitter, and my heart nearly stopped worrying about my best friend and her family. They are all safe, but any news like this, no matter where it comes from, makes me deeply sad. I feel helpless. I love the idea of treating myself with compassion. Thank you for this post today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad your friend and her family are safe, Vanessa. It’s scary when things like this happen, especially when they can affect our near and dear. Big hug to you. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I keep getting stuck on what to do next once I’ve given myself compassion for worrying about all the bad stuff in the world. Once I’ve allowed myself to recognize the pain around me, aren’t I compelled to do something about it, or try to do something about it? I’m just not sure where to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a wonderful question, Faith. I’d say once I meet the pain, look it in the eye, and let it come through me, a small action arises. I may not change all of the difficult things in the world, but I could do my bit by meeting what it’s bringing up in me personally and take one action externally. This is on a good day. On a bad day, I despair… Hope you are having a lovely w/e.


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