Move on! Don’t dwell on it! What’s the point of talking about it? It is what it is! These and other responses meet me every day as I offer to assist someone with an health-related problem, when I invite someone to “tell me more” about a personal dilemma. Even the word problem has become uncool; everything’s either an issue or a challenge and none is to be dwelled on. When I suggested to a friend that a counsellor might be a good person to talk to, she shot back with “and do what, talk about it?! This needs to be fixed/changed/done and I’m perfectly capable.” Many of us would rather deny that they we’re hurting than talk about it, lest we … show weakness? depend on others? disappoint parents, lovers, siblings, friends, co-workers, supervisors, teachers? admit being overwhelmed? face and feel our pain? admit that we could use a helping hand? David Brazier writes:
The Way taught by the Buddha begins with recognition of the reality that this wonderful life is also full of innumerable difficulties. We meet with obstacles and opposition. We also carry a lot of suffering … within ourselves.
All that from a guy in a cotton robe sitting for hours under a tree and going barefoot around the countryside talking to rag-tag hordes of disciples … 2500 years ago in rural India! What did he know — what does his teaching say — about the complexities of my life today? How could his insight translate across time and geography to help me with everyday hassles and extraordinary problems?
The message of the Buddha … is not that of escape, but of how to live a noble and satisfying life, in which the affliction and trouble are as essential as the grit is to the pearl.
Suffering — being in pain, grieving, being confused, feeling angry, helpless, and alone — is integral to living an authentic life. They may appear as obstacles to the way we hope to be a happy. In fact, they are the path, not towards happiness but to the root of happiness itself. It’s by training at all hours alone and with a coach that an athlete qualifies for the next race. It’s by sitting over the empty page, sometimes in agony and with discouragement, that the writer manages to create a poem, report, or essay. It’s by trial and error that most of us make a go of career, studies, relationship, parenting, and just plain surviving.
Suffering is terrible, but a story without suffering is dull. … A spiritual life should be a spirited one. The planet on which we live is beautiful, a kind of paradise. Yet, in the midst of the amazing blessings, grief falls like an unexpected hailstorm on a summer day …. Nor is it just the moment of injury that hurts. The pain goes on. The mother who loses a child may mourn for the rest of her life. … Nobody is truly mature who has not suffered. (emphasis added)
source: Brazier, D. (1997, 2001). The feeling Buddha: a Buddhist psychology of character, adversity, and passion. London: Robinson, pp. 11-13.