BY: T. Franklin Murphy |May 2018
Fighting Through the Difficulties
We grow, improving strength and adaptations to approach and overcome the challenges of life.
In recent decades, mental well-being has become tantamount; the search epidemic. Now that survival is guaranteed, we want to feel good while surviving. Pleasure feels good, and pain doesn’t, so we maximize one and minimize the other. Signs cover walls preaching, “Do what you love” and “find your passion.” We devour ideas that promise pleasure and limit pain. Secretly, many (if not most), believe in entitlement to greatness, a planned set of rules, if followed, will create a paradise—a nirvana—where we escape the stings of life, enjoying uninterrupted pleasure. Outwardly we may acknowledge that life includes difficulties but embedded in our beliefs is this entitled paradise, we cry out to the painful episodes, “why me? This isn’t fair!” The belief of uninhibited joy clashes with the coarseness of reality. These faulty expectations magnify the pain and confuse our dream of ease.
I spent a quarter century intimately exposed to the most harrowing experiences of humanity. I know human life includes tragedy and with tragedy—sorrow. An inescapable chunk of human existence includes misfortunes and affliction; Our survival demands we work through calamities, suffer the shocks and continue forward. With cautiousness and wisdom, we sidestep much unneeded trauma but escaping all pain is impossible; too much attention to avoidance severely limits human experience. As we slowly peel away misguided expectations, we recognize the charming belief of constant pleasure sprinkled with instant gratification is a fairy tale, disfiguring reality and magnifying disappointments. Pain free living doesn’t exist.
Instead of seeking escape from inglorious reality, our task is to build resiliency to the shocks of life. We shouldn’t expect to stoically face sorrows without being stunned; we can, however, integrate disappointing realities into our experience without overwhelming disappointment, responding with constructive behaviors that continue our progression. With increased resiliency, we move through pain, fazed but not damaged, on our path of growth.
"Instead of seeking escape from inglorious reality, our task is to build resiliency to the shocks of life."
A mindful examination of experience often reveals underlying expectations. Do we respond to slight discomforts with fear, blame, defensiveness and disconnection? With deeper recognition, we can gently nudge responses to these unwanted hurts with healthy expectations, pushing actions with courage, compassion and connection. The process doesn’t magically change feelings. Mindfulness brings us into the pain instead of ignorantly avoiding it. Even small directional changes, overtime, significantly change final destinations. We might not notice the effects of small change but be assured that a few healthier reactions will impact our lives and the lives of those around us, permanently altering trajectories and creating a better future.