Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional

A stone sculpture of a woman collapsed

A friend is grieving the tragic death of a family member and has reached out to her community which includes me. In times of grief I’m reminded of the old saying about life which is, “pain is mandatory, suffering is optional.” Life, by its very nature, brings with it pain.

Physical pain lets us know something is wrong and it needs to be addressed. We address physical pain by going to the doctor or stopping the activity that causes the pain. As we get older the list of activities we have to stop increases, much to our chagrin and disappointment. Emotional pain also lets us know something is wrong, however, we are often in the position of having to accept the circumstances that are causing the pain. So, what can we do now that we know that pain is mandatory?

We can choose to decrease the impact of the pain on us –  the suffering. I don’t think the old saying means that we won’t suffer. The most important point of the saying is that there are things we can do about our pain to lessen our suffering. Is it our tendency as humans? No, for most of us our tendency is to isolate and suffer when we most need to reach out and connect with others who can support us in our pain.

What can we do when we are in pain? We can call a friend or a relative. We can be with and around others who have experienced a similarly painful experience. This is the importance of support groups and there are support groups for such a wide variety of unique circumstances. It’s just a matter of finding them. And these other humans that we reach out to or connect with don’t have to have experienced the exact same circumstances, but they do have to care. Families care, friends care, and paid professionals such as counselors, therapists, coaches, etc. care.

What do you think? Do you reach out? To whom do you reach out? Please comment below.

Two art pieces in black and white are displayed onto sand and light sage coloured backgrounds and they look complementary.

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