Deconstructing the Path of SufferingJune 19, 2023 2023-06-01 1:47
Deconstructing the Path of Suffering
Deconstructing the Path of Suffering
Suffering Isn’t Your Fault. Now Let’s Do Something About It.
There’s a narrative that floats around in New Age spiritual circles that suffering is a path we choose. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating this concept, and in my professional life, it has certainly come up. It became especially personal, though, when that contemplation took the form of beating myself up because I was experiencing suffering and couldn’t seem to hop off that train no matter how hard I tried.
It’s a funny thing, this idea that suffering is a path that we choose to be on. The idea that we can choose to not suffer when we are deeply suffering can leave us feeling like a spiritual failure, which of course, leads to more suffering. It’s a vicious cycle, and I’m about to throw a wrench in it.
There are two times in my life that I have experienced intense suffering. The first is when I was actively being abused physically, mentally, and emotionally as a child, the second was during my healing process for this childhood trauma. What I can also say about both of these experiences now that I am long on the other side of them, is that no matter what I did, there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the suffering I experienced in either case. So what exactly causes suffering then, and what can we do about it if we can’t just choose a different path?
Trauma is an interesting concept because it has so many varied definitions depending on the model used to approach it. The medical model defines it differently than the psychotherapeutic model, and even within psychotherapy practices there are many different definitions of trauma. As an energy healer and ancestral healing coach, my experience with trauma is as an energy that informs our physical experience, and so I use and define the word “trauma” here through that lens.
Trauma energy is created whenever we have an experience that causes us to use that experience to inform our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and choices rather than our core truth. Any time an experience causes us to turn away from this core truth, a fracturing occurs within us. Trauma energy is created when this internal fracturing occurs, and it then informs our experience until that inner fracturing is repaired.
In my own life, experiencing trauma and healing that trauma were the two times that I felt most unsafe and the most need to close off from everything to protect myself. They were also the times that I suffered the most. Suffering itself often causes us to close ourselves off more than we already are because suffering certainly does not promote a sense of safety.
When an experience creates trauma energy and we are left feeling unsafe in some way, we have a tendency to automatically close up and seal off our energy field as much as we reasonably can. This is a protective measure and is a very normal and appropriate response to threat and danger. When our current experience is unsafe on some level or we don’t know what could be coming next we tend to block everything out – the good and the bad. We close ourselves up, tuck into our shells, and hide until the storm blows over.
The problem is that when we shut down our energy field we minimize our access to our higher power, and when we maintain this state for a long enough period of time we experience suffering. Suffering is a byproduct of trauma energy and the resulting protective mechanisms that we create to try to keep us safe during or in the aftermath of a fracturing experience. Even when we heal trauma, we feel those energies as they leave and this can often activate our energetic protective mechanisms in the same ways that the original trauma did until the internal fracturing is fully repaired.
If our traumatic experiences, subsequent activating experiences, and our attempts to heal the wounds and limitations left behind by those experiences can all induce suffering, it’s no wonder we can mistake the suffering we experience as a path we are traveling. Its pervasiveness can leave us with that impression.
Just because something is a consistent and deeply felt part of our experience does not mean it is a path we are traveling on, though. We can be on any path at all and have to bundle ourselves up in rain gear because there’s a storm overhead, and we can’t really be blamed for keeping that rain gear on when it appears to all of our senses that there’s another storm coming in ten minutes. Suffering is caused when the rain gear works a little too well and is kept on for a little too long. It occurs when we wall off and shut down our energy field. It is not the path that we travel, but rather a state that we can experience on any path and a trauma-informed reaction to present circumstances.
Now you might be thinking, “Well if suffering is caused by closing ourselves off, why can’t we just choose to open back up again to stop the suffering?” The thing is, most of the time we can’t really control this opening and closing of our energy field, or really any of our reactions to trauma activation for that matter. Nervous system activation and dysregulation is an autonomic response, just like our breathing and our heartbeat. It happens in the lower brain below the thinking brain and no matter how hard we try, it is physiologically impossible to think, control, or choose our way out of it. When our physical body and energy body perceive a threat to safety based on our templates from past experiences, regardless of whether that threat is actually present or not, there is an automatic shutting down that happens in the body in order to protect. This means it’s not as simple as choosing to open up at the drop of a hat when we decide we’ve had enough.
This lack of choice over suffering might sound a little bit grim, but remember that suffering is caused by our excessive use of rain gear even when there isn’t a storm. This happens because when our perceptions, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and nervous system are informed by trauma energy, they can tell us that another storm is coming or that one is happening now even if that isn’t the case. The key to ending suffering isn’t choosing to end suffering. The key to ending suffering is choosing to repair the internal fracturing that created these perceptions, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and nervous system responses in the first place.
If we can actively perceive when there is a storm and when there is not a storm, we can decide when to put the rain gear on and when to take it off. This is the state of being that we experience when we are in alignment with our core truth. In this alignment, we are never stuck in a protective state that closes us off from the world. Suffering never has a chance to creep in, we flow with life, and we know how to act within our lives in a balanced way. This is what happens when we heal. This is what happens when we come back to ourselves in wholeness.
Often the internal fracturing that we experience in life is not our fault. We didn’t set out to be hurt or abused or misguided by others, yet it happens to all of us in some way or another. It takes a lot of self-awareness and dedication to love and repair the parts of ourselves that have been torn apart and misled by trauma, but it is certainly possible and there are many paths that can lead to healing and restoration. When we are stuck in the depths of suffering, just knowing that it isn’t our fault, it isn’t our path, and that we aren’t choosing it can ease the burden a great deal.
When things feel challenging and hopeless, we can always remind ourselves that opening up our energy to our higher power is the key to overcoming suffering. We don’t have to open up to whatever it is that harmed us in the past, or whatever is harming us in the present, but we can try to open up to something bigger than ourselves. If that isn’t possible just yet, we can look at and love the parts of ourselves that are afraid and hurt and we can ask for help in guiding them back to their truth.
At the end of the day, the only path we need to be on to overcome suffering is the path of truth. We can still experience suffering when we are on this path, but the suffering will be short-lived. Truth cuts through fear and repairs the fractured parts of us that believed the trauma over our own selves. Truth lets us see what really exists all around us. It lets us see that whether there is a storm on our path or not, the sun is always up there working to burn off the clouds and will always inevitably come out again. Truth lets us see when it is truly safe to take the rain gear off and allows us to cultivate peace. Suffering may not be a choice or a path, but truth is, and it is seeing and embracing our core truth that is the antidote to suffering.