Let’s be honest – at times, life is at best uncomfortable and at worst filled with unbearable pain. Our relationships become contentious or unsatisfying, our jobs can be unfulfilling or taken away from us, we can fall victim to manipulative, mean-spirited people who would do us physical or emotional harm, and people and pets we love can die.
Thankfully, life does not only consist of these qualities and events, but if we are to live in this world, we must learn how to deal with discomfort, pain, and adversity. And while it’s true that life does not dish out pain, discomfort, and trauma to everyone equally, no person can escape them completely, despite our best efforts.
If Freud was right, seeking pleasure and avoiding discomfort and pain is one of our strongest and most fundamental drives. For example, 21st century American life has provided us with all kinds of technologies and conveniences designed to eliminate and avoid discomfort and pain.
- We have cars with heated seats
- We can have delicious food delivered to our doorstep with very little effort
- We have amazing medical interventions to heal us when we’re sick
- We have a seemingly limitless supply of gadgets and devices to stimulate and entertain us, and
- We have pills and other substances to lift our moods when we struggle.
And while no reasonable person would suggest that we go back to the days of living in caves, no dental care, or no indoor plumbing (or worse, no motor vehicles with heated seats), these advancements come with their challenges as well, and no matter what technological advances may come, emotional pain is strictly unavoidable.
The old phrase “shit happens!” seems to be universally true.
The question is: how can we best approach these expected and unexpected life circumstances so that we are not crushed by them?
In the next part of this three-part blog series, we’ll explore the benefits and pitfalls of avoidance, one of our most prominent tools for dealing with pain and discomfort. And in the third and final part of this series, we’ll talk about strategies for becoming more resilient so that when the inevitable difficulties do arise, we can navigate them with more grace and strength.