Pain is an inevitable part of life, but suffering is optional.
In her book, Self-Compassion1, Kristin Neff explains the difference between these concepts with a simple equation:
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
The more you resist pain, the more you’ll suffer.
Imagine, for instance, that you’ve injured your foot.
The pain you experience is raw sensory data from the injured area.
Any suffering you experience comes from your resistance to the pain.
“I hate this pain! Why won’t it go away? I wish it would just stop!”
Thoughts like these can add a tremendous amount of suffering to your pain.
So, let go of your resistance and instead practice acceptance.
Allow your current reality to be exactly how it is — no matter how much you dislike it.
Welcome whatever feeling shows up and greet it by its name.
It won’t eliminate your pain but it will drastically reduce your suffering.
And that will make your situation much easier to handle.