It is considered a truism that we seek pleasure and joy and avoid pain. But the story is not so simple as it sounds. This is because we all have associations with pain and pleasure and how they reflect upon us as people.
Pain can be difficult because it hurts to hurt, and our fear of being hurt just increases the pain. But it is also true that we have unconscious views on what being in pain implies about us, and this can be worse than the pain itself.
Next time you are suffering, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or in any other way, take a look at your real thoughts and feelings. Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you feel ashamed of being in pain? Do you think that if you had done things right, you wouldn’t be in this pain, and that somehow it is your fault? Do you feel angry at life for having visited this on you, because you don’t deserve it? Do you fear you will be in pain forever? Or is there some other thought that goes along with being in pain?
How would it be if you let go of all these and just had the pain?
Surprisingly, we often have no less difficulty in accepting our pleasure and our joy. Do I deserve it? Is it fair that I should have this when others are suffering? Will it go and leave me feeling worse than before? Am I cruising for a bruising? The thoughts can go on and on. Often, they are not conscious thoughts, but rather background attitudes that lead us to deal with our joy in strange ways.
Myself, when I’m feeling unusually good, I can sometimes get a bit high and then I eventually crash. Behind this reaction is a feeling that this can’t be as good as I think, and it will go soon, and I never never want it to go. My happiness becomes like a balloon that you tie at the end to keep it inflated so it keeps filling up and filling up until it eventually bursts and deflates. This cycle kind of spoils the happiness.
The nature of pain and joy is that if we relax into them, they flow through us, but if we tense, resist, tell ourselves it’s not okay, or that it’s how we should be and we have to be that way forever,we create fixed states of mind which can then affect us badly, even make us ill.
You know that fixed grin some people have? Not a whole lot better than a fixed frown.
So if pain is pain and joy is joy and a second is long enough and a lifetime is not too long, then freedom is right around the corner. I look forward.