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No one escapes life without pain and suffering. How you deal with the pain makes you who you are.
No one escapes life without pain and disappointment. This is the first noble truth Buddha taught. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

I look around me. Every person I know has had pain — physical pain and emotional pain. The death of a child. A chronic illness. Loss of a mate. Loss of a parent. Affairs. Lost jobs. Divorce. Problems with friends. Financial problems. Betrayals. Law-suits. A difficult child. Alcohol problems. Issues with drugs. Car accidents. Broken bones. Cancer. Infertility. In-law problems. Problems with aging parents. I could fill several books with my friends’ sufferings and ten more with some of the sufferings my clients have had to endure.

Life doesn’t provide us with only big hurts; it also gives us plenty of little thumps and bumps along the way. For example: A child won’t cooperate and do his homework; the toilet stops up; the electrician doesn’t come when you’ve taken off work; your fourteen-year-old “borrows” the family car; your mother is overly critical; a mate rejects you sexually; the refrigerator breaks down; the hot water heater goes out; a friend burns a hole in your furniture and pretends she didn’t do it. This is life.

Some months, some years are better. I sometimes think, “This is good. Everything is fine, only a little suffering these last few months.”

When pain comes into your life, how do you deal with it? Do you get angry? Cry? Withdraw and feel depressed? Put one foot in front of the other and keep on marching? Focus on something new? Obsess and think, “Why me?” and “It’s not fair.” Do you look for insight in reading and talking with others? Do you ask God for help? Do you work with a therapist? Do you push the sadness away by refusing to think about it?

How you deal with your pain is what makes the difference. How you deal with it is what makes you greater or lesser. It makes you the person you are and can become.

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Life is filled with hurts. Why hold onto the hurts of the past when dropping them gives you so much more room to love.
This week who will you forgive?

A parent who failed to say you were a worthwhile person or pretty or smart? A mother-in-law who betrayed you? A manager who let you go instead of a less productive co-worker? A boss who made promises but never kept them? A husband who was unfaithful? A girlfriend who left you? A child who has brought misery to the family? A doctor who refused to listen and caused needless suffering? An unscrupulous person who has cost you thousands of dollars? A neighbor who’s been downright mean? A relative who can’t seem to stop putting you down? Who will you choose to forgive?

How will you go about the process of forgiveness?

Sometimes trying to get into the other person’s shoes is helpful.

The neighbor who’s caused you pain — is he fearful that someone will take advantage of him, cost him money or time? Perhaps too many people have been mean to him, and his surliness and anger have become his defense. Might you say, “I forgive him” and then extend the olive branch? Maybe your olive branch will be a smile or dropping off a pan of brownies you happened to bake.

When your husband betrayed you, indeed he was taking care of himself, caught up in his own egotism. You did not cause his betrayal. Nevertheless, think about whether you might have done something to be a better wife. Were you too critical and always expecting more from him, raising the bar? Did you push him away emotionally and physically because you were caught in your own world as he became caught in his.

The friend who’s jealous — does she feel inadequate in comparison to you? How have you tried to shore her up? What would make her feel good about herself? Raining on your parade is only a symptom of her insecurities.

Sometimes it’s easier to forgive hurts when you think of the good the other person has done through the years.

When I find myself angry and hurt because of some perceived or real injustice, I’ll take a piece of paper and run a line down the center. In one column I write the caring things I’ve seen the other person do. In the second column I’ll write her transgressions. Having a different perspective, seeing reality, makes forgiving easier.

Perhaps when you think of forgiveness, you’ll find you need to forgive yourself. Maybe when you were a child you stole something and blamed it on someone else. For years you’ve carried the burden of guilt. Is there anyone you can tell your story to and then forgive yourself?

Perhaps in your business you’ve taken financial advantage of others and excused yourself by saying, “It was good business.” How could you make amends to those people you’ve hurt financially and emotionally? How will you rectify your past behavior? Who might you call and apologize to? Once you’ve made restitution, it becomes easier to forgive yourself.

A great cause of suffering is holding onto old hurts and the pain they bring when we think about them. By choosing to forgive, you choose to let go of your own pain.

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No one escapes life without pain and disappointment. This is the first noble truth Buddha taught. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

I look around me. Every person I know has had pain — physical pain and emotional pain. The death of a child. A chronic illness. Loss of a mate. Loss of a parent. Affairs. Lost jobs. Divorce. Problems with friends. Financial problems. Betrayals. Law-suits. A difficult child. Alcohol problems. Issues with drugs. Car accidents. Broken bones. Cancer. Infertility. In-law problems. Problems with aging parents. I could fill several books with my friends’ sufferings and ten more with some of the sufferings my clients have had to endure.

Life doesn’t provide us with only big hurts; it also gives us plenty of little thumps and bumps along the way. For example: A child won’t cooperate and do his homework; the toilet stops up; the electrician doesn’t come when you’ve taken off work; your fourteen-year-old “borrows” the family car; your mother is overly critical; a mate rejects you sexually; the refrigerator breaks down; the hot water heater goes out; a friend burns a hole in your furniture and pretends she didn’t do it. This is life.

Some months, some years are better. I sometimes think, “This is good. Everything is fine, only a little suffering these last few months.”

When pain comes into your life, how do you deal with it? Do you get angry? Cry? Withdraw and feel depressed? Put one foot in front of the other and keep on marching? Focus on something new? Obsess and think, “Why me?” and “It’s not fair.” Do you look for insight in reading and talking with others? Do you ask God for help? Do you work with a therapist? Do you push the sadness away by refusing to think about it?

How you deal with your pain is what makes the difference. How you deal with it is what makes you greater or lesser. It makes you the person you are and can become.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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How does someone cope who is in chronic pain?

Amanda has had a constant headache for over twenty years. Every day she’s in pain. She started having headaches in the early eighties. By the late eighties, they were daily occurrences. In the beginning Amanda attributed her headaches to stress. She had three teenagers, a busy preschooler, and a demanding full-time job as a graphic designer. She took a lot of over-the-counter medication and tried to ignore her aching head.

“In the morning when I opened my eyes there was pain,” she said. “On the way to the shower I’d be taking my medication. I’d think, `I’ll get in the shower, and my headache will get better.’ “Then I’d think, `I’ll eat something and it will get better.’

“I’d get to work and think, `I’ll get a cup of coffee and it will get better.’

“I’d then say to myself, `It’s not getting better. But maybe after I eat lunch.’

“Finally I couldn’t ignore my headaches any longer.”

Amanda’s internist sent her to biofeedback sessions with a psychotherapist and to a psychiatrist. “The psychiatrist tried some of this medication, and more of that, and less of this,” she said. “Nothing worked.

”She went to a university pain management program. There Amanda worked with a physical therapist who helped her with upper-back exercises, thinking the problem was muscular. The pain specialists also had her go to an aerobics class three times a week. Nothing worked.

She had sinus surgery because her sinus cavity was misshapen and the doctors thought perhaps that was causing the problem. “My sinus surgery was the most painful experience I’ve ever had,” she related. “Worse, it didn’t help the headaches.

“I went to several eye doctors to make sure the problem wasn’t visual. I saw my dentist for the possibility of temporomandibular joint dysfunction. I had two MRIs and a CAT scan.

“I went to a special headache clinic. They put me on a tyramine-free diet and presently regulate my medication. But I still have the constant pain.

“Sometimes I think if a doctor told me to get up on the table and bark like a dog, I’d do it.

“I’ve had acupuncture. I’ve seen allergists, chiropractors, a reflexologist, a hypnotherapist, and several massage therapists. I’ve even visited a psychic. I’ve used relaxation techniques. I’ve had medication in every category that is prescribed for headaches. I’ve counseled with my minister. I’m now attending a therapy group to keep me from getting discouraged.

”Fourteen years ago Amanda had to take a permanent leave of absence from her job which she loves.

When I asked Amanda how she deals with the pain, she started crying. Along with her tears, she half laughed and said, “Well, I cry. The only problem with crying is that it makes my head hurt more.

”She said, “I go to bed with an icepack. I read books on headaches. I do neck-stretching exercises. I pray about one hundred times a day saying, `Please, God, take this pain, I’ve had enough.’ I get mad at my headache and push myself to do housework or take my daughter to gymnastics. I take hot showers that beat on my head. My family gives me head and neck massages. At this point I’m willing to do anything that seems reasonable. I’m waiting for the miracle.

”I’ve known Amanda for thirty years, before she was married, had her baby, got her first design job. I love Amanda. Sometimes in a childish way I say, “Okay, God, I’ll take Amanda’s headache today. Give her a day off.”

But that’s not the way it works. We can’t take another person’s pain. But we can stand by her and give comfort and support. We can pray for her. We can make dinners, sit and hold her hand, give her a foot rub, read the Bible with her, and search the Internet to see if there is any new treatment for her illness. Sometimes our efforts can take the edge off her pain. In the end, however, everyone must face his or her own pain.

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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“I loved my boss,” said Marie. “She was respected by everyone. She thought highly of my work. She thought I was smart. Then my boss left the area and I was assigned a new boss. This boss is unbelievably difficult to work with. She acts as though I’m stupid and I can’t do anything right. She’s always on my case about something. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t make some snide remark or send me a memo that implies I’m an imbecile.

“I like what I do and I don’t want to quit my job, but my job is very stressful because of this woman. The way I cope — I try to ignore her rude comments. Sometimes I get very determined and I put in extra hours trying to please her, to show her what a good worker I am. I tell myself, `I’m a good person no matter what she thinks.’ Sometimes I call my sister in the evening and complain to her. I count the people on the job who like me, and once in a while I go to lunch with my old boss, who helps me feel good about myself.”

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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