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Strategies for Growing Through Pain

Recognize and Stop Self-Imposed Suffering


A great deal of life's suffering is unavoidable, but there are two areas of our lives in which we often create great pain, and which each of us has the power to change: "preventable suffering" and self image. "Preventable suffering" describes the terrible outcomes that result from decisions, choices, and behaviors that we know will lead to pain, such as adultery, addiction, and illegal activity. Self-image describes the ways in we think about ourselves and the philosophies and worldviews we hold, which can be negative in times of pain. Move in the direction of greater self-love. Suggestions:
  • Listen to the wake-up calls about the things you do in your life
  • Look honestly at your feelings about yourself
  • Surround yourself with company that reinforces your positive feelings about yourself
  • Forgive yourself for your mistakes
  • Change the way you talk to yourself and improve your inner dialogue
  • Don't set unreasonable, perfectionistic goals for yourself
  • Celebrate your strengths and achievements
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is truly living, being fully alive in every moment and appreciating each for what it is. When you enter deeply into each moment as it occurs, you will more clearly see the true nature of reality, and it is this insight that will liberate you from suffering and pain. Suggestions:
  • Practice a daily meditation
  • Read books about mindfulness and meditation
  • Tap into community support, such as classes or practice groups in yoga
  • Find your own path to mindfulness
  • Learn to relish and appreciate each and every moment
  • Let yourself feel everything


Grief is a natural and normal response to significant loss and let yourself experience it. Know that there is no prescribed way to feel or a timeline to follow. Let your grief chart its own course. Suggestions:
  • Recognize and acknowledge that you are grieving
  • Let yourself feel the pain and give in to it
  • Express your sorrow, talk about it to family and friends
  • Forgive yourself for all the things you feel you should have done
  • Take care of your physical self
  • Find diversions
  • Be aware of "anniversary reactions"
  • Get help if you need it
  • Help others

Build Good Containers

"Container" suggests the importance of relationships in holding us together or enclosing us in a space filled with love and belonging. Inclusion in a group, a clan, a tribe, a family is a human necessity; we need the container of love and inclusion that stems from these groups to help us get through our suffering. Build and nurture your containers. Suggestions:
  • Shore up the connections in your family by frequent contact
  • Create a family from friends
  • Build your containers before you need them
  • Be a good container to the people in your life

Count Your Blessings and Discover the Power of Optimism

The power of the mind, of consciousness, is the only equipment we need to grow through suffering and find happiness. Through practice, we can learn to train our minds to see deeply into the true nature of things. Refining such mental states as compassion, kindness, counting one's blessings, and seeing the larger picture will lead you to a more optimistic view of life in general, and your own in particular. With optimism as your guide, you will see the future as worthwhile, and know that present problems will pass. Suggestions:
  • At all times, and particularly the difficult ones, look around you at the blessings in your life
  • Calm your mind through meditation, yoga, quiet time alone, and nature
  • Look at your own levels of optimism and pessimism. How do you rate yourself?
  • Share the blessings you have with others
Dealing With Death and Dying
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