4 Ways We Resist Life and Cause Ourselves Pain (and How to Stop)

Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 2 Comments

the LOA and pain

By Holly Niederhofer | Tiny Buddha

“When fear wakes up inside, and there is no place to run away or hide from it, consider it a gift. In all the glory of that discomfort, know there is refuge in surrender.” ~Erin Lanahan

When I was a freshman in college, I had a wise English teacher. Through everything he taught, he would always circle back to the theme that “life is a constant cycle of tension and release.”

I heard him say these words over and over, but I didn’t really listen. I wasn’t ready to yet. Still, this simple message always stuck in my memory.

I used to suffer from anxiety, and trying to predict and control my environment seemed like a viable way to eliminate most, if not all, of what made me anxious.

I used to experience a great deal of anxiety about being accepted by others. For as long as I can remember, I’ve harbored this painful idea that I am distinctly different from everyone else; and I felt like my differences would hold me back from truly connecting with others and gaining their acceptance.

Though my anxiety stemmed from the fear of not being accepted, I didn’t realize this consciously. When I was in a bout of anxiety, I felt fearful about everything.

Since I didn’t feel safe in the world, I tried to manipulate my environment in an attempt to reduce my pain, but the world wasn’t the problem. I wish I had known then that there was nothing I could alter outside of myself that would heal something inside, but I naively tried to do just that.

In order to keep my anxiety at bay, I would make sure I always had some form of an escape route so I could temporarily slip away from the pain of being myself. I used distraction in the form of television, surfing the Internet, or reading to distance myself from my anxious thoughts.

I would even get neurotic about things like the amount of light in the room I was in, or needing to be in open spaces. I thought the conditions of my environment dictated my safety.

Because of this, I would avoid situations where I could not take the steps I wanted to control my environment. Because I developed such strict standards for deeming my environment “safe,” I missed out on a lot.

I use to avoid social situations. Being around others made the critical voices in my head much louder. I would interpret other people’s silence as disapproval, and I hated having nothing to distract me from this pain. The more I avoided social situations, the harder it became to cope with being around others. Even just going to class could trigger a panic attack.

Attempting to control my life and to eliminate all painful situations did not cure my anxiety. If anything, it made it worse. So often the dread of doing things I didn’t want to do was ten times more painful than the actual task itself, but I was too caught up in my suffering to realize this.

The more I tried to push out the bad things in my life, the more I reinforced that they were intolerable, and the worse things began to seem. Slowly, this avoidance trap made my life smaller and smaller. Things became more and more painful, until I felt uncomfortable even at home.

When my anxiety was at its worst, I began seeing a therapist. She asked me to try to lean toward the things I was afraid of instead of away from them. She told me to accept my pain.

She helped me understand that the feeling of fear is much worse than the things we fear themselves. She asked me to study the painful thoughts and feelings that I would always try to push away. She told me to accept and just ride the wave of rising and diminishing discomfort.

This realization made me wonder how much I was unnecessarily suffering.

How many things in life was I making worse than they had to be? If life really was a constant cycle of tension and release, was I intensifying my hard times by psychologically resisting them instead of just surrendering to them?

I thought on this and realized that there are some negative things in my life I have control over. For example, if I feel like someone in my life is treating me unfairly, I can choose to speak up and voice this feeling.

In situations like these, I can take action and make my situation better, but this won’t always be the case. Some situations will be beyond my realm of control. I will never be able to control being stuck in traffic, when I’ll come down with a cold, or whether or not my car will break down. I knew I had to change my relationship with these types of situations.

I learned that one of my biggest points of suffering came from resisting unexpected things that used up time I’d intended to use in other ways.

I used to get myself so worked up on nights when I would unexpectedly have to work late and miss out on what I had planned for that evening. Then, not only would I have to deal with tackling the unwanted task(s), but also my self-inflicted pain from thinking how terrible my situation was.

I really couldn’t control the situation, but I could control my thoughts.

It wasn’t fun having to change my plans, but it wasn’t worth the stress headache and dismal mood.

I decided I would start practicing acceptance when life gave me lemons, just accepting where I was on life’s cycle of tension and release. In doing so, I knew one of my biggest challenges was going to be staying aware, so I decided to look for patterns that would help me do this.

Below are four things signs that I am resisting my life, causing myself to suffer unnecessarily. If you’ve done any of these, as well, recognizing these patterns can help you suffer a lot less going forward.

1. Self-victimization

When things don’t go your way, do you feel bad for yourself and dwell on how unfair things are? This is a surefire way to get stuck in a negative feeling. I know; I’ve done this quite a bit.

When I get dealt something I really don’t want to deal with, I often default to self-victimization. I start thinking, “Why me?” Or, “This always happens to me.”

I notice myself feeling like negative things happen more to me than to other people. Logically, I know this isn’t the case, but this is a seductive escape that allows me to wallow in self-pity instead of tackling the challenge of acceptance.

2. Blame

When something comes up that you don’t want to deal with, do you find yourself blaming others? Do you become less compassionate for the people around you and amplify their faults?

When life hands me lemons, I start blaming everyone around me who I think contributed to the problem. I think of what else others could have done that would have prevented me from being in the unsavory situation.

It’s self-centered of me, and in doing so I overlook everyone else’s suffering but my own. I blame others instead of accepting that sometimes things just don’t play out the way I wanted them to. Blame also keeps me stuck in negativity instead of challenging myself to just surrender to what is.

3. Rushing

When I find myself rushing, there’s a good chance I’m resisting my reality. Sometimes when I rush it’s because I’m short on time, but more often, I rush when I find a task particularly unpleasant and I’m trying to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Sometimes I rush because I am trying to make sure I have enough time to relax. I often fear if I don’t get enough time I won’t be able to recharge and handle the stress of the next day. I’ve found that sometimes I don’t get enough time, but I always seem to make it through regardless.


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  1. Jay Lanni Jay Lanni says:

    Great article. Really hit home.

  2. danelson234@gmail.com' Doug nelson says:

    I felt exactly the same way. Maybe everybody does. This is duhkha. Did you not hear “resit not evil”? The four Noble Truths? Mindfulness would have let you discover this faster. LSD could do in 1 night what takes therapy years to do, but its fast. How can you handle a lifetime of defects in 1 night? They call that a bad trip,but is it? Seeing your self as you really are? Salvia may show you more than that about your self in 2 min. How can you handle that? Its not fun it SUCKS! Welcome to samsara my friend.

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