S = R x P

by Ray Reuter on July 20, 2017

Here is a math gem that showed up in my inbox recently …


This equation comes from Kristin Neff and her book, Self-Compassion. And after studying this for a bit, it makes so much sense … duh, like 1 + 1 = 2. So let’s break down this assertion …

  • PAIN is inevitable. We can all agree to that I think! Who hasn’t experienced some type of pain, or plans to experience pain in the future. It is start to finish … the pain of childbirth to the pain of death.
  • SUFFERING, on the other hand, is optional. I need to think a bit on this variable.
  • The trick is to keep the pain “clean” so we don’t suffer unnecessarily. And the key to doing that is to reduce our RESISTANCE to the pain we’re experiencing.

So let’s solve for “S.” We lose when we fight against and resist reality. Reality is neither good nor bad, right or wrong, positive or negative … it just “is.” What is, IS. Its how we engage with reality that causes issues. We want to embrace the reality of our current reality—no matter how much we may dislike it. So by letting go of RESISTANCE, I can reduce SUFFERING. If R = 1, then SUFFERING = PAIN and nothing more! But … if I resist reality (R > 1), then I create unnecessary suffering. The takeaway for me is when things don’t go according to plan and “pain” ensues, by resisting and battling reality, I self-inflict myself with suffering.

Keep this simple math equation in mind when you deal with “pain” of all sorts … physical, relational, emotional, spiritual, vocational … with spouses, children, parents, friends, co-workers, managers, customers, clients, the public … when things don’t go as expected or desired. When it comes to suffering, the most potent Rx (i.e, prescription, medicine) is to control your “Rx.”

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