Things that Nobody told me about Suffering
Suffering — Pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain sufferings : feelings of pain — Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Are We to Blame For Our Suffering?
Many times I have pondered the sufferings I have experienced in my own life. For every high, there has been another low seemingly trolling around the next corner of my life.
I will be the first to tell you that I have had it much easier than most when it comes to suffering. I haven’t suffered from any long term illness, a major disease, a parent’s death, etc.
I have experienced severe emotional abuse from early childhood. I had a major surgery and experienced a grueling 5 day hospital stay while being prescribed the state maximum dosage of morphine.
I had a near death experience after being stung by yellow jackets and came to with my doctor over me with paddles. I experienced a miscarriage with my wife early in our marriage.
I received a doctor’s diagnosis in 2010 that I suffer from high anxiety/depression.
But I have also wondered how much of this actual suffering was the end result of my own actions? Did my own behaviors and choices made in these difficult circumstances contribute to any of these events?
Sigmund Freud asserts in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a) that “the three sources from which our suffering comes” are “our own body. . . the external world. . . and our relations to other men”.
Nothing could have prepared me for the suffering I felt the night my wife gave birth to our youngest daughter in September 2013. After a routine pregnancy, we were informed minutes after her birth that she likely had Down syndrome.
Beyond the sheer panic, I felt instantaneously when those words were uttered to my wife and I in that delivery room, I was completely heartbroken.
We learned a day or so later from hospital staff and others that all the tears and painful emotions we had felt during the initial 24–48 hours after our daughter’s birth, was in fact, common to what someone might experience when the death of a loved one occurs.
But nobody had actually died? This didn’t make sense.
Ecclesiastes 2:23 states “All of their lives their work is full of pain and sorrow, and even at night their minds don’t rest. This is also useless”.
The truth was my own selfish feelings, emotions, and desires had taken complete control.
I couldn’t see the miracle that had just came into my life, because I was too caught up in my own feelings and only thinking the worst.
In reflecting back, it is clear that my wife and I both needed each other’s love and support for those 7 tense days we would share with our daughter in the hospital’s NICU.
Watching her resiliency with tubes, ringing monitors, and flashing lights draped all over her body was very motivating and taught me lessons about suffering that I desperately needed.
“Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.” — Dalai Lama
Lessons Learned from Suffering
Suffering can teach us strength, patience, and understanding for others. Most problems are solely brought out by clinging to what we have experienced in the past.
If we grew up abused, we might have a hard time leaving that thought process not because we like it, but because it’s all we have ever known. Simply put, our conscious minds telling our sub-conscious what to do, think, and feel in nearly every situation will ultimately get us no where.
Without suffering we would become complacent and never truly grow.
Rest assured that the hard times won’t stay that way forever, though it may seem that way for a short time. All the “what if” scenarios that we spend so much time obsessing over never really play out that way in the end. It’s all really just a state of mind.
“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
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