How To Suffer Less

Several years ago, I was cutting firewood and had to carry the logs uphill about 50 yards to get to my truck.

A tree had partially fallen over the path I was using, so I had to duck under it to avoid hitting my head. I remember thinking I should cut it out of the way, but decided not to, feeling confident that I could be graceful enough to avoid it.

Sure enough, I was carrying a heavy log up the path, failed to duck, and racked my head hard into that tree. I dropped the log, which rolled down the hill, and my head hurt like hell.

My first inclination was to curse, stomp around, criticize myself for being so clumsy, and feel sorry for myself. Fortunately, this happened early in my study of psychology and personal development that led to me becoming a life coach.

Allowing Emotion

I’d been reading about the concept of ‘allowing emotion’ - the practice of breathing into the subtle physical sensations that accompany any emotional experience.

I figured I could try this with the absolutely unsubtle sensation in my forehead. I took some deep breaths and put my attention on the sensation. I stopped the internal dialog, which consisted of self-criticism and self-pity.

And I was fine. My head hurt, but I could handle that. And I was completely free of anger, guilt, and self-pity. It was a potent lesson in meta-emotion, i.e. the negative emotion we layer on top of unpleasant experiences, whether physical or emotional.


It was a great demonstration of the principle that, while life delivers pain, we create our own suffering, and we have the choice not to.

Notice where you're feeling something - hopefully less intense than a knock on the head - and then creating an internal dialog around that feeling.   Breathe into the sensation, drop the dialog, and notice how much better you feel.

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