“If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.” ~William Butler Yeats

The Suffering EyePain. Ouch. No one likes it. Many will do anything to avoid it. Some ignore it and a few actually seek it out. Why such differing reactions?

It is because many (but importantly, not all) associate pain with suffering. It is critical to recognize that suffering is the result of resisting pain, it is not its automatic companion. Pain may be inflicted from an external source but suffering cannot. Suffering is a choice we make and one no one can make for us. In defiance of all this, when in pain most of us choose to suffer.

Pain and suffering are not synonymous. Any committed athlete who has experienced the satisfaction of the old adage, “no pain, no gain” can tell you that they do not suffer when in pain, in fact quite the opposite. Chances are you have had the experience of having pain without the suffering. What was different then when all the other times they seemed inseparable? The difference is the meaning you chose to give to the experience.

Meaning holds the key. We have conditioned ourselves to experience exercise or self control or frugality or hard work or {insert your own} as suffering. But it is merely painful. We had to take an additional step to view it as suffering. Why not instead mindfully refuse to take that last step to suffering?

“Here’s how to stop suffering right this instant:” click to tweet

When you experience pain without any unnecessarily associated suffering, you develop a whole new relationship with pain. Welcome it when it arrives, experience it completely, and you will find it goes away, having succeeded in sending you its important message. When you resist it the message is blocked, you experience suffering, and you set yourself up for an even greater pain as the message tries even harder to get through to you.

Pain is inevitable. It is inextricably linked to how we learn. Suffering is completely avoidable. A life without pain doesn’t even look like life. But a life without suffering looks like paradise. Choose paradise. It beats suffering.

Where in your experience have you made a distinction between pain and suffering? Share it below by commenting.

Photo credit: Slothability

How to Never Suffer Again
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6 thoughts on “How to Never Suffer Again

  • September 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I don’t know if I am ready to “welcome pain” but I get that suffering is way worse. I’m sure not going to welcome suffering anymore though.

    • September 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Foregoing suffering is a great first step. However I urge you to embrace pain. You will be amazed where it takes you.

  • October 28, 2012 at 6:18 am

    This just clarifies a lot for me. I used to — and sometimes still — confuse pain from suffering. I didn’t really know the distinction between the two, that is why it makes me feel worse every time the ones intimate to me accuse me of being addict to suffering, which I really stay away from as far as I am concerned. After reading this I am starting to have a feeling that they are actually right. I suffer because it is sub-conciously my choice (every time I choice to linger on the hurt or pain and every time I magnify the impact of what should have been a little pain).

    Now I can say I love pain, but I don’t really have to love suffering. By shifting my choices and perspective I may be able to achieve it.

    After all, it takes a solid carbon a lot of scraping and too much pressure before it becomes a diamond.

    Thanks for this.

    • October 28, 2012 at 7:36 am

      If your intimate companions said you were addicted to chocolate you might smile and chuckle. You certainly wouldn’t think of it as an accusation. Keep in mind you choose the meaning that you give to events. You might actually be suffering by feeling “accused” of being addicted to suffering! You can choose to see their observation as false without suffering or even true, still without suffering. I’m glad to see you are on your way!

  • July 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Take long distance running as an example. There are going to be points where there is pain, but are you suffering? Most likely not. Its part of the running process. There is the runners high, but then there are blisters or bad weather. Whether or not its suffering is up to the individual enduring the pain. I think sometimes we want to put suffering as a tag to feel sorry for ourselves or others.


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