Stephen Levine once wrote, “Suffering is resistance to what is.” It is natural to avoid painful situations, but we suffer when we try to escape from the pain that we do feel. When we judge or reject our difficult feelings and react with anger at ourselves or others, we layer a new painful feeling on top of the initial one.
Instead, we can train ourselves to pause and breathe with moments of dark emotion rather than repress or escape them with drugs or distraction. We can learn to make space around what we feel by being present to it, and we can turn this same awareness towards a person or situation that challenges us. From a place of greater clarity, we can then make conscious choices.
We may choose to act carefully, mindful of what we see in ourselves or someone else that may obstruct clear communication. Or we may choose to withdraw from interaction to process our emotional distress on our own and regain our balance before taking action. Accepting what comes into our lives, as well as what arises inside us, enables us to be present to life as it is and respond skillfully.