I have often talked about suffering less by accepting and being fully present with pain or other symptoms. But, this seems counterintuitive and risky. A common question is: When I’m really afraid or in a lot of pain, why would I want to experience more of that? Wouldn’t it be better to do things to take my mind off the pain? This is a common question. Of course, none of us wants to suffer. However, on the occasions when I’ve tried to reject fear or pain, it intensified. A common expression is: What we resist persists. Whereas, when I fully accepted my fear or pain, allowing myself to fully experience it and fully accept it, it diminished markedly. In other words, when we allow ourselves to accept rather than reject our fear or our pain, we are, in effect, accepting ourselves, just the way we are. Nevertheless, there are times when acute fear or pain is too intense. In those situations, it can be most helpful to use distraction or dissociation. Watching a movie or listening to our favorite music can provide both distraction and dissociation. However, for chronic pain, whether it is emotional or physical, it is better to learn to surf rather than to try to get away from the wave.
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I co-teach a course at College of Marin in Kentfield, California; Mindfulness-Based Self-Compassion (MBSC). For those who do not live geographically close enough to attend the class, this page can serve as a guide: http://larryberkelhammer.com/mindfulness-based-self-compassion/