Going Old School: What Do Grammar and Math Have to Do with Mindset and Pain?Apr 13, 2020
What do grammar and math have to do with mindset and pain? More than you might think!
There’s an old Buddhist saying: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
If you’ve ever heard me speak, or even had a conversation with me, you’ve probably heard me say, “Just because life gives you a cactus, doesn’t mean you have to sit on.”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I got that pearl of wisdom from a meme on Facebook. In fact, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever gotten from social media.
Why is that?
Because that saying so beautifully illustrates a critical calculation for life:
Pain + non-acceptance = suffering
We often have little choice or control when it comes to pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain. It doesn’t matter. It’s all pain, and pain is an unavoidable part of life. Take this pandemic as a salient example. There are so many pain points for so many people, and pretending like that pain doesn’t exist or trying to “just be positive” the pain away really isn’t helpful.
What is helpful, then? Acceptance.
In psychology, acceptance is really captured by the “It is what it is” sentiment. Acceptance doesn’t mean liking it or approving of it or wanting it. Acceptance means acknowledging things as they really are and not allowing pain to dictate your actions in unhelpful ways.
Acceptance can be hard to wrap your head around and even more difficult, yet, to embody and implement. What you can do right now to start toward a place of acceptance, though, is to insert the mental period.
The Mental Period
I was talking with colleagues from the anxiety world last night, and one shared this cartoon that so perfectly exemplifies the mental period.
When you experience a pain point, notice it. Acknowledge it. Then insert the mental period.
“It’s raining.” PERIOD.
“My head hurts.” PERIOD.
“I’m scared.” PERIOD.
“I’m feeling burned out.” PERIOD.
“I’m feeling bored.” PERIOD.
“People are losing their jobs and their loved ones.” PERIOD.
“I feel heart broken.” PERIOD.
“And grateful.” PERIOD.
See how that works? Give it a try this week and see if this is a more helpful way of dealing with pain, whatever form it takes.
And if you want more tips and tools for building acceptance skills and other aspects of psychological strength, our ASCEND program is for you. There's a whole section on acceptance and other tools for taming your mind, in addition to modules on becoming the best version of you and creating a life you love.
"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
- Dalai Lama
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