Transforming Poison Into Medicine: Handling Life’s Pains

smile broken armPain in our lives is inevitable, of course. And aversion is a natural response to pain. But aversion to the aversion? This is not inevitable, Brian Johnson writes. Aversion to the aversion is a source of pervasive suffering.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional: Sylvia Boorstein

When difficulties arise, try to see them as a valuable life lesson. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Our instinct is to avoid discomfort at every turn. And we live in a culture that helps us distract ourselves anytime a discomfort emerges.

We need to realize that it’s our resistance to our pain that leads to the deepest suffering.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance. It’s an exponential rather than a multiplicative relationship.

Try to distinguish between the normal pains of life – difficult emotions, physical discomfort, etc. – and actual suffering, which is the mental anguish caused by fighting against the fact that life is sometimes painful.

Pain is inevitable. Accept that. Work with it. Learn from it. And thereby reduce your suffering and save that wasted energy for your growth and wisdom.

Our society constantly gives us a million distractions and numbing agents to our slightest discomfort. But what if, rather than turn away from that which challenges us, we leaned into it?

All of us have the capacity to make use of any circumstance, no matter how awful, to create value. This ability to ‘transform poison into medicine,’ makes possible the reinterpretation of even the most horrific tragedy into something that enables us to become happier.

Believing in your eventual ability to transform poison into medicine when you don’t know how, and often refuse to do, except in retrospect, is difficult. But that’s the courage and confidence you have to find. That’s the confidence that represents your greatest defense against discouragement.

Are you resisting any challenges in our life and thereby increasing the pain? How can you use this challenge to your benefit by seeing all the ways it’s making you stronger?