• Once we can properly identify suffering for what it is and become aware of it in ourselves, we can begin to manage it better.
• Suffering takes all different forms for each of us, but according to the four noble truths, there is a way to ease and reduce our suffering, by letting go of attachment.
• One way to do this is to practice distinguishing between pain and suffering, first and second darts, and facts or opinions. When you feel upset, slow down and tease apart the situation until you see it as clearly and objectively as possible.
• Try to avoid extremes and black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. Watch out for clues to cognitive distortions and bias like absolute terms, catastrophizing and generalization, and instead look for a balanced path down the middle of extremes. We can achieve this merely by changing our language and how we frame things.
• Counterintuitively, we reduce feelings of suffering by being willing to “sit with” and acknowledge all our feelings, without trying to escape them. We can learn to stay in the present and be aware of how we feel right now, instead of letting our minds get carried away with thoughts of the past or future. One way to keep in the present is to ground in the senses.
• Finally, take care with what you consume, information-wise, since suffering is often a question of overwhelm, or being looped into people’s stories and interpretations. Pay close attention to the media you take in, its effect on you, and how these distractions may be helping you avoid your feelings in the present.
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Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition.
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