Home » Blogs » In Your Own Hands » You Can Survive Even the Most Painful Feelings

You Can Survive Even the Most Painful Feelings

It is normal to believe that we would not be able to survive a traumatic life event such as the death of our child, our spouse being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or any number of other tragic and traumatic life events. However, once we develop the ability and courage to stay fully present with whatever we are feeling, we actually become increasingly stress-resilient. This does not mean we no longer suffer, but we suffer far less than when we try to resist the suffering. This has sometimes been referred to as suffering without suffering.

The challenge is that to develop that level of stress-resilience, we need help in order to be able to fully accept our inner subjective experiences.

One form of very effective help is to find a group of people who have gone through the same type of emotional trauma that we have been through. For someone who is a war veteran it is important to find a group for veterans, often led by a veteran, all of whom know from personal experience what types of unspeakable horrors we experienced. If our child died, a group made up of other parents who also lost a child is helpful. I live with chronic medical conditions and for many years I led support groups for others living with debilitating medical challenges.

Another path is that of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week classes are a great way to learn. Mindfulness allows us to learn how to differentiate the stories we all make up in our minds from reality. Reality is something that is experienced from moment-to-moment. Examples of mindfulness include observing the physical sensations of breathing and the observation of our thoughts. The idea is to observe our thoughts without getting caught up in the drama of the thoughts.

Still another path is to spend time with close friends who have no agenda for us and accept us with whatever emotional states we may be experiencing.

Self-compassion is extremely helpful. When we can self-soothe and really be there for ourselves the way a close friend or someone who loves us would support us, our suffering diminishes. Being around supportive, close friends can help up develop self-compassion.

Get a FREE Preview of the first 3 Chapters
of “In Your Own Hands…”

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:

You Can Survive Even the Most Painful Feelings

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Berkelhammer is a retired mind-body medicine psychologist. He writes about mindfulness-based practices with a unique emphasis on optimization of wellbeing and health. Dr. Berkelhammer also lectures at San Francisco State University and UC San Francisco, and is currently teaching a class in Marin County through College of Marin. He is the author of the book "In Your Own Hands; New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions".

See his extensive website:

In Your Own Hands: Mindfulness-Based Practices to Optimize Wellbeing - College of Marin Community Education

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Berkelhammer, D. (2018). You Can Survive Even the Most Painful Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.