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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

        [1] Everyday Health: Why Do We Feel Pain?
        [2] The Conversation: In pursuit of happiness: why some pain helps us feel pleasure
        [3] Dalai Lama: The Book of Joy

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        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on January 18, 2019

        7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

        7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

        Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

        But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

        If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

        1. Limit the time you spend with them.

        First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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        In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

        Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

        2. Speak up for yourself.

        Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

        3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

        This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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        But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

        4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

        Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

        This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

        Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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        5. Change the subject.

        When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

        Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

        6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

        Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

        I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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        You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

        Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

        7. Leave them behind.

        Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

        If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

        That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

        You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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