Tag Archives: suffering

How do you calm yourself?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Recently I have been fortunate to spend grandma time taking care of my grandchildren, ranging in age from 9-months to 4-years, with an 18-month old in between. And if you’ve ever spent time with children you know that their days and lives are filled with moments of great joy and glee as well as moments of upset and sorrow. No one needs to be an emotionally intelligent genius to guess what emotional state a child is experiencing.

During those moments of sadness, upset and crying, I do my best to offer comfort, alleviating and relieving the source of the pain. I also add the extra grand-ma love, hugs and soothing.

What I also get to observe is how each child is learning to provide his own strategies to relax, pacify and self-soothe.

One searches for her pacifier and snuggle bunny to help ease her pain. Another squeezes his eyes shut tight until Mama comes and picks him up. The eldest now makes his grumble grouch face as he stomps about. This same boy use to grab his baby doll Jeffrey, throw himself in his bed and comfort Jeff as he comforted himself.

Learning self-regulation and self-soothing is an essential skill for good mental health and happiness. Some of us are lucky and learned how to do it early in our lives.

And some of us turned to other self-destructive strategies instead. These destructive and failed attempts toward self-regulation include drinking, drugging, over-eating or nutritional deprivation, sexing, gambling, just to name a few. Just like every other person on the planet, these folks experience pain, sadness, anger and suffering. But rather than learning how to successfully deal with the feelings to enable creative and thoughtful explorations of better strategies to get what is wanted and meet their needs satisfactorily, they choose behaviors that suppress, mask, or cover the negative feelings.

What are your self-soothing, self-regulatory strategies? Are they serving you well? Do you feel calmer, more peaceful and better able to face your problems and look for better solutions?


Or have you escaped the pain, dulled and zoned yourself out with your self-soothing choices? Are you now faced with worry and concern about your choices, adding to more woes and self-hatred?

Now is a great time to learn and add new, more effective and responsible soothing strategies. Start making a list of the strategies you know that work and give you strength and comfort. Get curious and ask family and friends what strategies they use.

Just to get you started let me give you a couple: prayer, meditation, slow and deep deliberate breaths, humming a calming song, hugging a friend, or a dog or a tree.

Your turn. . .

Feel what you’re feeling!

 By Dr. Ken Larsen

Helping a person get free of the sometimes paralyzing phantom of fear conjured up by their own imagination is a wonderful thing to experience.  Mental health and happiness requires us to come to grips with the reality of the difficult things in life.  Recently I heard a phrase that seemed to be very wise.  The phrase was “urge surfing.”  This phrase describes how a feeling that we don’t want, like a craving or an unwarranted fear, comes at us like a wave.  What can you do to stop a wave?  You can’t. You can watch it rise up and then ebb away, like the receding tide.  This requires us to have the courage to feel what we are feeling so that we can learn how to deal with it.

When I was still practicing dentistry I would often invite a patient to “fegirl2el what you’re feeling.” I was looking to bring them to an awareness of what is actually happening in the here and now.  I wanted to help the person to not think about what they were afraid they might experience and focus on what was actually happening in the present reality.  Sometimes I would simply touch the person and ask them what they felt.  They would then report what they felt from my touch.  I would then invite them to stay in that place of awareness, total focused on what is happening here and now.

This often preceded the dreaded “shot” of local anesthetic.  It is so satisfying to be with a person who is able to shift from their fearful thoughts to being here now, experiencing what is actually happening and not what they are afraid might happen.  I would then ask them to focus on what they are feeling so completely so they can describe it to me afterwards.  I encouraged them to be as detailed and precise as they were able.   The clincher came when I asked them after the experience what they felt.  The usual responses were “I didn’t feel a thing,” to a “I felt a little stick and some pressure.”  We then talk about the experience.  I usually say something like, “Was that a manageable experience?”  And most often they answer with something like, “It wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” or “it wasn’t anything like I was afraid I’d feel.”

More and more we are learning that our thinking patterns are what are disturbing to us.  This bit of wisdom:   Pain x resistance=suffering  speaks to how ineffective it is to resist what we feel.  We can’t make it go away, and we make it worse by trying to fight it.  What we resist persists.