Goal: Navigating Pain and the Inevitability of Suffering
Do you believe you can have a life free of suffering? The reality is you can either suffer in comfort or suffer in discipline. However, no amount of pleasure or vices will free you from pain.
Today, we discuss how to make your suffering easier so you can improve and thrive despite your pain.
Table of Contents
- What Is Suffering?
- How Do Individuals Try To Avoid Suffering?
- Why Does Avoidance Always Fail?
- How Do You Make Suffering Easier?
- 1) Accept that there is always suffering
- 2) Have an impressive purpose that makes the suffering worth it
- 3) Other practical and physical ways to strengthen your mind
- Understanding and Embracing Life’s Suffering
What Is Suffering?
Suffering “is the bearing of pain or distress.”
Pain and distress cover physical, emotional, mental, and psychological examples. You can languish in trauma, a broken leg, emotional manipulation, a lousy breakup, etc. When you endure pain, that is when you suffer.
How Do Individuals Try To Avoid Suffering?
Suffering is discomforting. You don’t like the discomfort, and such dislike is reasonable. No one wants to endure a broken leg or a bad breakup. These things are costly both financially and emotionally.
However, individuals find poor ways to avoid their agony. For example, we can deal with a bad breakup by having meaningless sex with strangers. Or, we can deal with a sprained ankle by popping pills. These harmful “solutions” lead to further problems. Meaningless sex can create unwanted pregnancies, interpersonal drama, jealousy, sexual assault, and STDs. Popping pills can lead to addiction to pain medication.
Why Does Avoidance Always Fail?
Avoidance always fails because it doesn’t address the pain directly or give us the strength to endure pain as it inevitably continues.
For example, if you sprain your ankle, healing will require time. You may need a cast or a brace and rest. You will experience discomfort during this time because your ankle will be in pain, even while healing. You must also engage with the mental torment of losing mobility and dealing with your body’s vulnerability.
Taking drugs can alleviate these problems. The pain disappears, and your mind is numb, so you don’t have to engage with the pain directly. You never build up a tolerance for the discomfort and never engage with the reality of your own mortality. Unfortunately, you may become an addict struggling to overcome your addiction to the pain medication, as many Americans have.
Avoiding suffering is ideal, but here is the reality: you either suffer in discipline or through regret. There is no shortcut to pain and no way to avoid it. You might as well take your suffering and use it to strengthen yourself.
How Do You Make Suffering Easier?
“The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.” -David Goggins
Therefore, if we are to suffer, we must do so with a purpose. But how can we make suffering palpable?
Here are three ways to make suffering easier:
1) Accept that there is always suffering
Therefore, find ways to struggle meaningfully. Parenthood is complex and challenging, but it produces less suffering than the alienation and vulnerability of old age. Exercise is painful but less painful than being out-of-shape and depressed. Pursuing your dreams is uncomfortable and challenging, but it is better than speculating “what could have been.”
If you see a way you are suffering, discover what you could do as an alternative. How can you take this pain and pursue the productive, meaningful path? Further, how will the difficulties you are enduring help you in the long run?
2) Have an impressive purpose that makes the suffering worth it
“Give a man a purpose and he will crawl over broken glass with a smile.”
Since life is suffering and your comforts will not save you, you must go in the opposite direction. You must have a purpose that is worth the suffering you will experience.
The deluded man thinks he can escape suffering by being small. You only escape by being as great as you can be. When you reduce your life’s burdens or eliminate your callings, you remove the object that will keep you going in the face of adversity.
3) Other practical and physical ways to strengthen your mind
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness practices involve acknowledging your feelings without judgment. You can also find meditation practices that keep you leveled while you endure your pain.
- Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings can be a therapeutic way to process emotions and gain clarity.
- Physical Activity and A Healthy Diet: Engaging in regular exercise can release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can boost mental well-being.
- Limiting Stimulants: Reducing or eliminating the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety. Additionally, avoiding stimulants can make sleeping easier. The easier you sleep, the better you deal with suffering and stress.
- Nature and Outdoor Activities: Spending time in nature and away from your devices can rejuvenate the mind and body.
- Gratitude Practices: Keeping a gratitude journal or simply taking a moment each day to acknowledge the good can shift focus from what’s lacking or painful to what’s abundant and positive.
- Engage in Meaningful Activities: Volunteering, helping others, or simply engaging in activities that align with one’s values can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When you see the suffering of others and help alleviate that suffering, your pain diminishes.
Understanding and Embracing Life’s Suffering
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Suffering is an intrinsic part of the human experience. While technological advancements might shield us from physical discomforts, they cannot prevent our souls from yearning, challenge, and purpose.
Rather than seeking elusive escapes, we should embrace the inevitable with resilience and determination. Recognize that suffering can catalyze growth, pushing us towards our true potential.
Find your purpose, embrace the challenges, and let your passion and zeal shake the very heavens.
- How do you deal with suffering? Are your methods healthy? Do they leave you numb and lost or inspired and rested?
- Set aside 10 minutes today to reflect on a challenging period in your life. What did you learn? How have you grown since then?
- Consider reading Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, which delves deeper into the concept of suffering and resilience.
- When was a moment you suffered greatly? At the death of a loved one? Or when you failed at a task you had set for yourself?
- List three things you’re grateful for today. Sometimes, focusing on the positives can shift our perspective on suffering.
- What is your purpose in life? Do you reflect on this purpose often? What are you doing to fulfill this purpose?
Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.