Pain Is Unavoidable, Suffering Is Optional

If you’ve never, ever been hurt in your entire life, raise your hand. And leave this blog ASAP, because the following article is not for you. It’s for all the people who got hurt at some point in their lives. And who suffered because of that.

Suffering and pain are tied together in our minds. One is giving birth to the other. They’re like a single, osmotic being. Every time we get hurt, we suffer. And every time we suffer we create more hurt. It’s difficult to even talk about pain and suffering in a detached way, this is how deep they are buried in our subconscious mind. The mere act of reading about pain and suffering is making your brain reconnect with those feelings in this very moment.

Do you remember how you felt last time you experienced pain? What were the exact feelings? Frustration? Sorrow? Despair? Defeat? What were the words you used to describe it? Suffering? Affliction? Trauma? Grief?

Pain is one of the most avoided situations in our life. We run away from pain. We’re trying to escape the pain. To mask it, to hide from it, to cover it in superfluous, temporary indulgences. We can’t stand it. Because we don’t want to suffer.

Why Do We Suffer?

Pain is external. It’s created by things out of our control. We’ve just been hit by something. The same way we get hit by happiness, sometimes. Only this time it hurts.

Suffering is internal. It gets triggered by our own feelings and perceptions of the pain. We’re interpreting the pain in a certain way. Most of the time by resisting it.

Pain is generated by loss. Loss of confidence, loss of affection, loss of hope. Every time you get disappointed, you’re losing a dream. And it hurts. We lose things we were attached to and the main body reacts: I want that part of me back. And we get this signal under the form of pain.

Suffering, on the other part, is the attachment for what we lose. The higher the attachment, the stronger the signal we receive. Pain becomes bigger and bigger.

But, believe it or not, losing parts of ourselves is natural. This is how we grow. By losing parts of ourselves. We lose our childish body and become adults. We lose our ignorance and become knowledgeable. We lose our inhibitions and become free. Every time we lose something, we’re forced to put something in its place. We create something new. We become something new.

Our loss is the trigger for evolution. We replace the tears with something we crafted. This is how we become a new being. Most of the time a better one. Because now we know what it takes to re-create that part of our Universe.

They say you grow stronger through pain than through happiness. And that’s true. You grow faster when you have all that work to do. When you lose all your dreams and hopes, you have to get to work. Fill in the gaps. Make sure life doesn’t flow away through all those holes. Be there. Do things.

I’m not making the apology of pain as the ultimate evolutionary tool. I’m human just like you and I get hurt just like you. What I do try is to lower the suffering. Because suffering is not necessary. Pain, as hurtful as it gets, might be. But suffering is an internal artifact, a self-generated response which I have control over. I may not control pain, but I can control my own reaction to it.

By giving free way to suffering I accept to lose my energy. My whole power is hijacked by suffering. Instead of using it for creating something new on that crack, I crave for what was there before. I use my focus in a desperate attempt to freeze the Universe in the very second before the loss occurred. Like this would be possible…

I Am What I Do

Every time I get hurt, I try to see which part of me is detached. What am I losing? Is the affection of somebody? Is my confidence in somebody? Is something I took for granted but it proved to be as changeable as the whole Universe? Every loss I experience creates some pain. I know I cannot avoid it. But I also know I can create something new in that hurtful cavity of myself.

That pain is the signal I have work to do. If there’s somebody affection I lost, I start to love myself more. If there’s confidence in somebody I lost, I start to trust myself more often. If there’s something I took for granted, like when I’m disappointed by somebody, I start to make and keep new promises. All those tears are signs of unfinished work with myself.

It’s not about the other guys. The outside process of getting hurt is in fact a reflection of what’s going on inside. Blaming external conditions for my pain is just another form of suffering. The real process takes place inside.

Deep down, every pain is a pointer for something we avoided to do for a long time. We’re designed in such a way that we naturally experience growth, and most of the time we grow organically. But sometimes we get so attached that we cannot break up and grow further other than through violent actions. This is when pain occur. When we don’t want to grow anymore. At that point, a violent event blows away that part of our main body which is not necessary anymore. Forcing us to start covering it with something new, and, most important, better.

Most of my pain came in my relationships. I made bad choices. Several times. I got hurt and I’m still getting hurt. It’s nobody else’s fault. In fact, it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just a pointer that I have a lot of work to do in this area. And that work is about myself. It’s about trusting and opening. About accepting rejection, if that’s the case, and creating understanding. It’s about making peace with my own failures and my partner’s failures. About acceptance and freedom.

Desperately trying to tune out the pain by temporary indulgences won’t solve my relationships problem. The cavity will still be there until I start building something new over it.

And I’m building something new over it. I’m not making huge progress, but I’m sticking with it. Every single day. 🙂

36 thoughts on “Pain Is Unavoidable, Suffering Is Optional”

  1. we suffer because we think, only by stop thinking of desire, hate, aversion and to accept life is as it should be, then we are able to free of suffering.

  2. I had a feeling that phrase was more for emotional pain. I mean, it doesn’t make much sense for physical pain. After all, if someone really hurt us physically, suffering would be inevitable, unless we somehow have a way to not feel physical pain.

    “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

    • You can say that, but to some extent I think this applies to physical pain too. If you look at a martial artist, for instance, you’ll see that his non-attachment to pain (which is obviously experiencing through all those violent interactions) makes him so powerful.

  3. Great Title: “Pain Is Unavoidable, Suffering Is Optional” I completely agree!

    .-= Jonathan |´s last blog ..Quotes and passages of poetic beauty from Shantaram =-.

  4. Dear Dragos, This is a fascinating post. When I went through a long term bout of extreme pain, at first the pain and suffering merged….UNTIL one day I said to myself, Okay, I am in excruciating pain, and yes, it wears me out and drags me down week after week, BUT it is only physical pain. There is still my mind, my spirit and I can still try to choose what I’m going to focus on. I can either identify with the pain or I can identify with what I love…and do as much of what I love as I can within the confines of my physical condition. Even if that simply focusing on loving others and easing their pain or bringing joy to their lives or if that is simply sitting in Nature and allowing both the physical pain and the infinite beauty of Nature to exist within me at the same time.

    In other words, although it was almost never easy, I kept readjusting my view to focus on Life and all things good. I also learned that every time I had a set back to NOT think that the pain was forever. It was only right now, NOT tomorrow, NOT next week or forever…only right now. It took a great deal of willpower and courage, but honestly? I have to say it made me a very strong woman. It taught me deep compassion for those who are buried in either physical or emotional pain or both. I do not judge others anymore. Most days I see only Love. Thank you dear Dragos for such an insightful post. Hugs, Robin
    .-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Five Perspectives on Death =-.

  5. “It’s not about the other guys. The outside process of getting hurt is in fact a reflection of what’s going on inside.” I really like this post Dragos, outside is always the reflection of our inner world. It is always teaching us some lesson. As soon as we learn the lesson, forgive and let go the part of us that created those circumstances, circumstances change automatically.
    .-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Two Steps To Easily Change Your Habits =-.

  6. Suffering is the result of attachment is nicely said Dragos. Though I just came across an article on parents losing their child, so I’m not sure if suffering can really be prevented with rational thinking. Emotions after all, play a strong part in our life. I think time is also a key to end suffering.
    .-= Karlil´s last blog ..Being Independent: A Guide To Self Date =-.

  7. I agree to a large extent. You can either give in to pain, or adapt to it.

    At the same time, it has to be recognised that pain does inevitably cause physical and emotional reactions – if, for example, someone skinned you, you’d suffer, I reckon.

    • I also agree to some large extent but I think physical pain is only one type of pain, one of the most obvious. I still think you have the choice to give in or to transform it. Great people who survived horrible illness or spiritual masters have been through this physical pain too…

  8. Hi Dragos,
    Really enjoyed this.
    You idea that *every pain is a pointer for something we avoided to do for a long time* gave me some new perspective to the age old response o change, “Why???”. I appreciate that.
    I always think a painful experince is steeling me for something even more challenging so I whisper a little *thank you*.
    Take Care,

    • Saying “thank you”, not only when you encounter a big challenge, but every now and then, is a great way to use your speaking abilities, IMHO 🙂

  9. Great article indeed. However there is something which grabbed my attention for more than one minute: “… Every time we lose something, we’re forced to put something in its place. We create something new. …” and which I guess is not that general.

    Why is that? I believe that most of us (me included, of course) have a “natural” the tendency of getting back to the “me-before-the-pain” state, without giving the pain any real chance to help us evolving 🙂 Your point of view assumes that getting to the next level (eg: “create something new to replace our loss”) is the natural reaction to the pain, but I guess that unless we consciously form the habit of deciding what to do with that pain, most of the pain will just drive us to suffering. And I guess that systematically bringing the pain into the “decision zone” area is one of the very few patterns of the successful people (as you say).

    • Hi, Bogdan

      What I say, is that building something over the loss is NOT the natural tendency: I am using the word “forced” because this is how it feels. You can’t go back to that initial, out of pain state. The longer your try to go back, and avoid building something new, the longer you suffer. Or, at least, that’s my personal experience 🙂

  10. Hi Dragos, this was a great article and one I could immediately connect with. I loved the part when you said:

    “By losing parts of ourselves. We lose our childish body and become adults. We lose our ignorance and become knowledgeable. We lose our inhibitions and become free. Every time we lose something, we’re forced to put something in its place.”

    That’s so true and you put it beautifully.
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Real Change – Should It Feel This Uncomfortable? =-.

  11. Hi Dragos. I love this:

    “Suffering, on the other part, is the attachment for what we lose.”

    That’s a great idea. I have become convinced that attachment is the cause of a lot of our unhappiness in many ways.

    This was a very good article. Thanks!
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Irrational Decisions – Relativity =-.

  12. People handle pain or lost many ways. The response is determined by the intensity of the pain.
    There is a normal path a person follows when grieving. Denial, anger, etc.
    The time it takes it recover from that pain depends on what has caused the grieve in the first past.
    The importance of taking that time to grieve and heal instead of allowing emotions to fester and erupt at a later date. The alternative to that is apt to fuel physical harm stemming from emotional stress.
    You have to accept the things you can not change and let go so you can put the past behind you and move ahead.
    .-= Bunnygotblog´s last blog ..Halloween Recipes: Witchcraft =-.

      • Hi Dragos,

        This is a great article. I enjoyed it very much.
        I would have to say acceptance comes after denial and anger depending on what the extent of the pain is.
        I believe anger is very damaging because the longer it last there is more of a chance you sink into self- pity then into depression.
        People need to know denial and anger are natural but don’t allow these emotions to consume you and fogs reality.Things happen that you do not have control over.This is life. 🙂
        .-= Bunnygotblog´s last blog ..Halloween Recipes: Witchcraft =-.

  13. Most people go into victim mode when they experience pain. I know I have from time to time. It’s so much easier to externalize your hurt than it is to just accept it, deal with it, and move on.
    .-= A-ron´s last blog ..When Your Best Just Isn’t Good Enough – Day 159 =-.

    • Victimizing is so disempowering, yet people chose it so often. Complaining will only attract more complaining. But I admit I am from time to time the victim of my own victimization too 🙂

  14. Hi Dragos,

    I really liked this post. I was in a bit of a pickle over the weekend and took a hit of confidence. I actually started to mope around, all ready to throw a pity party (I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with a pity party, unless you do it too much and too long). Then I realized, yes the pain is there, but only I’m responsible if I let the pain drag on for too long.

    I actually ended up chatting with a good friend of mine and we shared a couple of good laughs. Crisis (imaginary or not) averted! It’s true when they say laughter is the best medicine. 🙂
    .-= Valerie M´s last blog ..Thoughts on how to start loving freely and without expecations =-.

    • Absolutely, laughing is such a fantastic medicine. If you saw “The Secret” you may remember the woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and then in three months was completely cured, all by laughing. Whenever I’m too sad I try to remember that segment.

      Laughing is a free resource 🙂

  15. Hey Dragos.

    That point about pain representing loss is something that I was able to use right after reading it to understand a pain. If that isn’t insta-useful material, I don’t know what is. I like how you separated pain and suffering. Pain comes when we get that loss of something, but suffering doesn’t have to take place unless we allow it to absorb into our thoughts and actions. I am glad to make use of that distinction.

    That part about pain represents us having avoided something for a long time sounds about right. It doesn’t just show up, but takes time to build, and then boom, we feel pain for the long-term avoidance.

    I enjoyed reading this.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.