Sunday, September 20, 2009


I think that most people have a personal sense of what I mean when I say "suffering." We all have experienced pain, discomfort, and distress at times as we have gone through life's many experiences. And our natural reaction, as living beings, is to avoid suffering. We spend much of the time and energy in our lives to avoid discomfort, yet most of the time we find that our suffering continues and often becomes more intense as we progress through life.

Is suffering unavoidable? Can we live life without suffering? I believe that suffering is necessary in life and actually necessary for life. Without suffering, life would not last long. Now I understand that this may sound a bit crazy.

Consider how we would live a life without any pain or discomfort. When we needed food or drink, we would not experience the discomfort of hunger or thirst. When we stepped on a nail or broke a bone, we would not even necessarily recognize our injury or seek medical care. When someone that we love had died, we would feel no loss or experience grief--all we might feel is indifference at most, if that is even a "feeling."

As you probably can see, life without pain or discomfort would threaten our survival and make life an extremely dull and uneventful experience. We would remain unmotivated to do much of anything.

Suffering, that is to say discomfort, pain and distress, is an important motivator in everyone's life. It helps us want to change. And when we react to suffering in adaptive ways, our lives can actually be improved. On the flip side, when we react to suffering in maladaptive ways, our lifes can be more difficult, and our suffering can and often does become more difficult and intense. Ironically, the most instinctive response to suffering, avoidance, can actually lead to more intense suffering in the long run.

The choices we make in how to respond to our suffering is the key factor here. Learning how to respond to suffering in healthy ways is key to surviving, growing, and thriving!