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What happened to you? Are you more than this?

“People are having wounds open for the sake of having wounds to point to” Heather Heying[1]

What happened to you?

You probably-most definitely I would say-experienced some pain in your life, perhaps recently, possibly long ago in the past, so long ago that the detail of the pain lies shrouded, obscured by the living you have done since then, sublimated or buried in somatic memory.

But our pain-essentially that which first happens to us as we are born-does not just stay as pain. It becomes suffering. It might have been the Buddha who first saw this with any degree of insight in the Sutra of the Second Arrow, when he described our pain as a first arrow that, well, causes us pain, physical or psychological. Into that wound of the first arrow another arrow falls (and then more) until we build up a story, a narrative of suffering.

The suffering did not happen to you. Pain happened to you. So how is that you carry this narrative of suffering, how is that you came to believe, grasp onto and identify with this suffering, as if to say this is me, I am what has happened to me, however much this is lost in time and shrouded in the past. I suffer and will hold onto my suffering, in spite of any evidence to the contrary, this is me.

Perhaps we worry that if we lose our suffering, we will have nothing to call our own, to call us? Perhaps can see this played out in current culture, where identity politics creates multiple sects and tribes of victims, many of them attempting to be the tribe that shouts the loudest and therefore claims themselves as the biggest victims.

The issue here is that the shadow of the victim is a persecutor, and in order to keep the victim energy going, contemporary tribes have perpetuated the story of their suffering; interestingly-ironically-they seem quite happy to do this. Douglas Murray has called this a kind of culture of masochists, who have in truth never really engaged with true sadism. Perhaps there is a suggestion that there is a kind of faux suffering at work here, what Carl Jung called illegitimate or bourgeois suffering? Or perhaps this is too harsh?

What happened to you?

Did you hold onto the story of your suffering, whether born from real pain or foisted onto to you by the world until you became married, not to your spouse or lover but with reciprocal stories of suffering that find some solace but not true meaning in this arrangement; only further suffering, suffering spun into fine gold garments, yet suffering all the same?

You are not your suffering. You can mindfully reverse engineer your suffering, notably through psychotherapy to unpack your story, and mindfulness to drop the story.

You are more, much more that your suffering.

You are no more your suffering than the clouds are the sky.

What happened to you, is not you; it’s what happened to you.

You are a case of mistaken identity; you think you are your suffering-and it’s in that thinking where you make the biggest mistake; you are not your suffering or the clinging thoughts that say this is me.

You can be the awareness of what happened to you and begin to dis-identify from your suffering, slowly, gently.

Mindfulness has a potent practice to facilitate this, called RAIN practice[2], where we can

  • recognise what’s happened to us
  • accept and allow it
  • inquire into the heart of this
  • non-identify with it

We can break free of the false chains of our suffering and become what are truly meant to be: fully human.





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