Inspiring thoughts on how accepting reality can combat stress and suffering in our lives. The following is condensed from Should I Fire My Doctor, by Patricia J. Sulak, MD.
Stress is inevitable. Suffering is optional. In my pursuit of wellness, I have come across this concept multiple times. I agree. We need to Stifle Stress, and we can then Sever Suffering. How do we decrease the stress in our lives? It does not matter if I am reading the words of Greek philosophers, the Buddha, Confucious, C.S. Lewis, or the New Testament–the answer is the same. We suffer when we argue with reality (or many call it arguing with God).
Rules of Reality cause us to suffer if we deal ineffectively with them. I have narrowed them down to four.
Reality Rule #1: Life is unpredictable. Even though we all know this, it doesn’t seem to keep us from stressing out over the unexpected… It may be the traffic jam on the way to an appointment, the unwanted mammogram results, the layoffs at work, or the phone call with bad news about a friend.
Solution to Reality Rule #1: Expect the Unexpected. Rather than each morning waking up hoping that everything will go the way you want, expect the unexpected. Ask yourself, “I wonder what is going to happen today something not on my radar, that I will need to deal with…?” …we can train ourselves to deal with events in a thoughtful fashion with improved outcomes.
Reality Rule #2: Life is Transient. Most of use believe, or say we believe, that there is a better place after death, usually referred to as heaven. Although often described as the ultimate five-star luxury residence–with no demands, dealines, or discomforts–none of use seem in a hurry to reach that destination… Although we know that death is inevitable and happens unexpectedly every day to many, we hope it won’t be a family member, a friend, or us. But, one day it will…
One patient who came for her annual visit announced that her husband had died unexpectedly three months ago. They had been married over 35 years. I asked her how she was doing. She smiled and told me she was not going to live in misery but was going to cherish and honor the time they had together. This was the total opposite of some of the patients, who over ten years after the death of their spouses, “still can’t get over his being gone.”
Solution to Reality Rule #2: Life is Precious. Cherish each moment.
Reality Rule #3: I’m not in control of most of life’s events. While we can decrease adverse and demanding circumstances and manage many aspects of our lives, we are not in control of most daily events. I cannot control the weather or traffic. I cannot control what people say about me. I cannot control what people do to me. I cannot control many things that happen in my life.
Solution to Reality Rule #3: I can choose how I react to life’s events. …No one has stated this better than Victor Frankl, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps. He said, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
Reality Rule #4: I am not perfect. This may be the last, but certainly not the least Reality Rule. When I say and do things that hurt others, it’s usually because I was thinking of myself and not being mindful. I was not focusing on where someone was coming from and why she said or did what she did. Or, I was trying to be helpful, but could have chosen different words or actions. I do things that personally don’t serve me well.
Solution to Reality Rule #4: There is room for improvement! I love the saying, “There are no mistakes, only lessons…” For everything I have done that did not serve others and me well, I can learn from the experience and help others and myself…
What about the times I have hurt people? I can use those experiences to improve my own behavior and be more understanding when people do things that hurt others. In fact, now when my husband and I catch ourselves saying something negative about someone, we try to remember to add the phrase “…just like me.”