Sometimes things happen in your life that are so painful that you put them away in the deepest realms of our mind. Sometimes you even deny them. This denial protects you from having to feel or relive pain or suffering.
When living with a partner, a friend, a family member or someone else with an unhealthy habit, it is very likely that this person – and you as well – are suffering from the painful consequences. All you want to do is end the suffering. He or she has to stop. Nor do you want to feel the pain anymore.
The truth is that you have no control whatsoever. Many people I know from 12-step programs have been trying to make their loved one “stop” for many years. They have tried EVERYTHING without success. This inevitably leads to more frustration, pain and fear, but also to feelings of guilt and failure: “I can’t do it”, I am not trying hard enough”, “It is my fault.I am doing something wrong”.
Sometimes this behavior evolves into an obsession. We do not face the truth. We cling to the illusion that we are responsible for the unhealthy habit, that we can cure it or change it (see also this post). We are literally behaving insanely: we keep repeating the same behavior, while expecting a different outcome (see this post). Fighting reality becomes our mission in life, our own unhealthy habit. We become co-dependent.
The problem with denial is that it can only become apparent when you become aware of the truth, when you become aware of “WHAT” you are denying. Without this awareness there is nothing to deny. How can you deny something that does not exist in the reality as you perceive it.
The basis for all suffering is the denial of reality, of truth. We have the ability to perceive the truth in our own way. When the opposing team in a football game is penalized by the referee, their fans will strongly disagree and loudly protest, whereas the supporters of the other team couldn’t agree more with that same decision.
Obviously there is only one immutable truth, the one true version of reality and apparently we cannot always rely on our own perception. It is this perception (see this post) that determines our subjective view of the truth. We use it to justify our behaviour and its purpose is to maintain reality as we want it.
When you feel pain, fear, anger or frustration this alway means that there is a clash between the immutable truth as it occurs and the reality you believe in as a result of your perception and te expectations that go along with it. Suffering signals that our perception is “off”.
Fortunately this awareness can be used to your benefit.
When you are angry because your partner has been drinking again, you are really angry because you are denying the truth: you have no control over your partner’s unhealthy habit. When you are sad over loss, the truth is that you believed you could not lose it. Yet you did.
We perceive what we want to. If you are looking at the clouds or at an ink stain, you will see what you want to see. If you want to see a lamb, a puppy or a beautiful woman you will. If you are looking for a dragon or demon, you will see them too. We have a choice.
By embracing the truth suffering disappears. This may seem very difficult, because it means letting go of the reality you have been entertaining and maintaining for sometimes years. In truth, you are letting go of the root of your pain and suffering. How hard is that?
Recovery begins with the awareness that it is insane to deny reality.