Suffering and Communicating

When we’re suffering, we aren’t communicating. When we’re suffering, we’re alone; we don’t want to be with others who aren’t also suffering. It’s natural – all animals want to be alone when they are suffering.

Suffering can take on many guises: losing a loved one, worry, anger – any kind of emotional pain, and all kinds of physical pain. It can even be what looks like pleasure – extreme excitement for instance, can become painful and cause suffering.

There’s one experiment that many of us have now heard about: many years ago, scientists concluded that opiates were physically addictive from a series of rat experiments.  The scientists isolated individual rats in cages that were empty of everything except two dispensers; one contained food and the other contained an opiate. Under these stark conditions, the scientists found that the rats preferred opiates over food. In a recent experiment, scientists gave rats the same choice – food or opiates, only this time they were in a community of rats, and their cages were filled with things that rats like to do.  The outcome was that the rats rarely chose opiates over food. (See my earlier newsletter A new way of looking at addiction that contains a ray of hope  I refer you to an earlier blog of mine on this topic.)

The point is that when we suffer, we don’t communicate well because we have no motivation to do so.  Even if we want to, we are too distracted to really communicate because we aren’t able to be present with others. Our focus is entirely on ourselves.  And this is natural. It’s natural for us to focus on our pain when we’re suffering – it’s our body’s way of assuring we do something about the pain.

Suffering creates bad communication: because we aren’t really present for the other person, because our focus isn’t on communicating at all.  And this can generate issues for us with our relationships with the people in our lives.  As Tony Robbins says, bad communication creates bad relationships.

Sometimes, suffering is simply where we need to be – when we are grieving, or physically ill, for instance.  But other times, we don’t need to be there, or if we do, it need not take up so much of our lives.

We can end up suffering because of our own expectations. For instance, when we expect that a friend will be there for us, and isn’t, we feel pain.  Or when we’ve injured ourselves, expecting the injury to be over and done in a matter of weeks or months, only to discover that it’s going to be with us for much longer. But have you ever noticed that when you expect hardship and get pleasure, any hardship you feel remains only briefly?

So much of suffering is a matter of choice and focus, and we can free ourselves from this kind of suffering by trading our expectations for appreciation.  Appreciating our friend for being just who they are. Appreciating our bodies for continuing to function, even if at a different pace than previously.

Robins suggests the following: allow yourself 90 seconds of remorse, and then look for what you can appreciate.  It might be more like 4 hours at first, but with practice, that will change.

The exercise that could End your suffering


Quote of the Week
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. -Thich Nhat Hanh

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly



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