Suffering or Peace? You choose!

On the IHUK Facebook page, I recently shared a video of Russell Brand talking about how the justification of pain is a way of recommitting to it. Brand said that each time you blame whatever happened to you as a justification for pain or suffering, it's like signing a new contract with it. Yet when you choose to let go of the suffering and can say "this happened to me and I want to move forward" you have the opportunity "to re-imagine your world and your place in it".


I have known this to be true for over 20 years, since I took the Landmark Forum, and started reading personal development texts. I'll admit that I've had varying levels of success applying it at different stages in my life - some things have been easier to let go of than others, and there have also been times when suffering was exactly what I wanted (even though I knew I was doing it to myself). Speaking more generally though, it's still not widely accepted that we are responsible for our suffering, and Brand's video prompted several interesting discussions with people both on- and off-line over the last few days. Those I spoke to were interested in whether we really do have a choice in these matters, and if so, how to let go of suffering to choose peace.


In this post, I'll be discussing this and offering some practical steps and additional resources you can use to help let go of the things you've been 'recommitting' to and which are cutting you off from peace. (If you'd prefer to listen to it, click here.)

It takes a certain level of self-awareness or consciousness to recognise that we are responsible for our experience of life and we have a CHOICE about it. It's a challenging concept, and one you may not be familiar with already, so let's use an example.


Imagine for a moment that something bad happened to you as a child. Being responsible for your experience isn't saying that you were responsible for what happened to you. Not at all. But it is saying that you are responsible for your relationship with what happened, and whether you are still carrying it with you now. So, if you have acknowledged something happened, and are able to move on knowing it's in the past, and it doesn't affect things that you do now, you've chosen to be at peace with it, even if you would have preferred not to have experienced it. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, only that you are not - in Brand's words - continuing to 'recommit' to it. On the other hand, using it as an excuse or justification for all that's wrong in your life, a persistent bad mood, or anger, is your responsibility. So you can choose not to suffer in this way, even though you can't change the thing that happened.


In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle explains that the greater part of human pain is actually unnecessary. He says it is self-created as long as the unobserved or 'egoic' mind runs your life and resists what is (in other words, what can't be changed):


"The pain that you create now is always some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity." - Eckhart Tolle