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Last Updated on February 28, 2018

The Beauty of Suffering

The Beauty of Suffering

No one likes suffering. We try to get rid of any kind of pain and suffering at every turn. An entire industry sprang up around reducing the pain associated with dental and medical procedures. We have pain-free options for delivering babies. Everyone tries to dive into something new and avoid the pain after a heartbreak.

It would stand to reason, then, that suffering is universally a bad concept.

But what if that’s not true?

Why Suffering Even Exists

To understand the beauty of suffering, you first need to understand why pain even exists. It’s a warning sign of potential danger.[1] Pain becomes a memory to avoid facing future danger.

Think of a caveman and a fire. He touched the fire previously and got hurt. Now when he encounters the fire, he won’t touch it.

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    This is how we evolved, but in modern times, the “suffering” we feel is often not physical. It’s often mental processes we want to skip but shouldn’t skip. A good example is putting in work. When we were young, studying and doing homework could be classified as “suffering.” We’d rather have fun and be outside playing. But if you skip studying, you don’t learn anything, and have bad results.

    The same applies in adulthood. Working hard can seem like “suffering” for some people. If people go with their instinct and try to get rid of this “suffering” by slacking at work, they’ll probably work slow, have bad performance and may eventually get fired.

      Suffering Is Not the Opposite of Joy

      This is what people often miss: “failure” and “success” are not necessarily opposites. If anything, they’re cousins or even siblings.

      There’s a close correlation between pain and pleasure, or failure and success. After intense physical exertion in the process of running, runners experience a sense of euphoria that has been linked to the production of opioids, a neurochemical that is also released in response to pain. This is called “Runner’s High”.[2]

      If you’re not so much a runner, think of it like this: what if you want to be a great singer? This might not be a goal for everyone, but substitute your own goal in if you would like.

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      To be a great singer, you have to put in work. Sing every day. Train your breathing. Watch other singers and analyze their style. Do gigs. Keep your voice healthy. All of that work could be seen as “suffering.”

      The opposite is much easier: hang out with friends, go to movies, take naps, essentially don’t do much. Without the suffering, then, you can’t get the joy of being a great singer.

        Can You Reduce Suffering?

        No. It’s a natural part of the human experience. You can reduce the amplification of pain within the suffering by focusing less on yourself, though.

        The Dalai Lama has a great quote,

        “As long as you are too focused on your self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will experience suffering.”

        Removing the self-importance is an important step. Realize that everyone suffers. Athletes train to get better. Singers sing and get booed at gigs. Entrepreneurs lose money and think it’s over before they really have a successful business.

        Stephen King, one of the most successful authors of all-time, had his first novel, Carrie, rejected 30 times before it was published. It was a similar number of rejections for J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, which may be the most successful book and film series of all-time.

        All these people before they experienced the joy and success, they suffered.

        Find Joy in Suffering

        Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that only 50 percent of our happiness is determined by uncontrollable factors like our genes or temperament. The other half is determined by a combination of our circumstances, our attitudes and actions which we have control over.[3]

        Celebrate every small amount of joy. You are going to fail. You’re going to suffer. Take a small amount of joy in those moments. Understand they are learning experiences. You will grow from them.

        Very few people marry their first love; many go through heartbreaks. Very few people see their first professional endeavor be a total success; many scrap and fail before they find some success.

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        Find a way to track your progress and to set and celebrate small benchmarks. You may also want to conduct a weekly review to assess where you are and celebrate all of the small wins of the week.

        Tracking your progress is also a great way to find and mitigate triggers and hindrances that impede your progress.

        The point is, you are making progress. Even if it feels like suffering, you can see that it’s leading you to joy.

        Suffering Is Beautiful

        When you start going to a gym, you may struggle to lift 50, 60 pounds. After a few months, you might be lifting 150, 175. After a year, it might be over 200.

        All of that is a struggle and suffering. You are putting your body through something. But it’s also beautiful. You are gaining strength and becoming more fit.

        Failure is hard, but it’s a necessary element of life. Find beauty in those moments because you are growing.

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        Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on September 17, 2018

        7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

        7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

        Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

        Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

        When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

        Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

        1. You’re depressed about your home life.

        No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

        However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

        If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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        When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

        You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

        2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

        Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

        If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

        You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

        If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

        3. You can’t stop snooping.

        Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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        I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

        Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

        So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

        It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

        If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

        4. You’re afraid of commitment.

        If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

        Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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        No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

        If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

        Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

        5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

        If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

        Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

        Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

        Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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        If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

        6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

        When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

        When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

        If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

        7. You chase past feelings.

        It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

        You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

        When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

        Final thoughts

        If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

        Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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