We are seeing a paradigm shift in today’s culture to cope with adversities and difficult times. Anxiousness, avoidance, disconnection, and suffering are themes that keep many trapped and confined in a fear based state. Children and youth seem to have more “mental health” diagnoses than ever before, or is it that we are defining children differently today as a result of anti-stigma campaigns of mental illness?
As our culture moves more in the direction of languaging human suffering through the discourse of mental illness diagnoses, we are seemingly seeing most behaviours for children, youth and adults as “ill” and treating them from this paradigm. One might ask the question: Are we, as a society, re-enforcing “mental illness” rather than building “resiliency” for “mental wellness”?
I recently reflected on other cultures as I have a home in a third world country, which as of yet does not have the societal integration of the mental health discourse. Many other countries have experienced significant civil war, poverty, natural disasters and hardship. I remember the first time I was in my new third world community, sitting on a plastic table and chair on a main street of an impoverished food hut, of this small fishing village. The average income for a family of 4-5 people was $80 US per month.
As I looked around, all I saw were children laughing in the street, many families connecting in front of each other’s homes, which were small and mostly made out of tin, pleasantly engaging and experiencing incredible community connection. I wondered how this community could be so connected, and everywhere I went, they were overall, generally happy and engaged.
Firstly, this community is not integrated with technology but this community has experienced significant human suffering from a civil war that they were not protected from. Although many would have been personally affected by this horrible part of their history, they clearly have gained incredible self-determination to not let their history define their inner narrative.
What this community taught me was that their inner self was “greater” than their trauma, their suffering, and their profound grief and loss. Somehow, someway in speaking to individuals in this community, they only saw hope and had constant gratitude for what they have in life, albeit very little to our standards of living.
The pain paradox in Buddhism states, “Resistance X Pain = Degree of Human Suffering.” Those who become resilient learn to understand that all lives come with human suffering. Avoidance or fighting pain leads to greater human suffering! Resiliency is developed by learning to lean in to pain rather than resist it. Embrace pain as if it were your friend.
You begin to establish a new relationship with your painful, emotional situation where pain begins to shift and lighten, becoming manageable. This allows us to change our inner narrative of hopelessness, lack of self-confidence, and low self-efficacy by providing us the opportunity to learn to not avoid nor fight but instead discover our inner abilities to get through our own pain in powerful inner ways.
Protecting others or yourself from pain, trying to fix others pain, distracting away from pain only leads to greater human suffering. Make pain your friend to strengthen your inner-self and become stronger, confident and able to be resilient through whatever life sends your way.
August 16th, 2018