chronic illness chronic pain coping with disability

To #Live is to #suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

I find a great deal of truth in this quote… and not simply because I have chronic pain, which of course would literally be to live and suffer. The straight up fact is life is complicated and comes with all sorts of wonderful complications and pains. Also joys and sorrows.

Think of the Buddhist saying ‘Life is suffering’.

The Buddha says, “Life is suffering”. What does “suffering” mean? The sutras say: “Impermanence therefore suffering”. Everything is impermanent and changeable. The Buddha says that life is suffering because it is impermanent and ever-changing. For example, a healthy body cannot last forever. It will gradually become weak, old. sick and die. One who is wealthy cannot maintain one’s wealth forever. Sometimes one may become poor. Power and status do not last as well, one will lose them finally. From this condition of changing and instability, although there is happiness and joy, they are not ever lasting and ultimate. When changes come, suffering arises.

Thus, the Buddha says life is suffering. Suffering means dissatisfaction, impermanence and imperfection. If a practising Buddhist does not understand the real meaning of “suffering” and think that life is not perfect and ultimate, they become negative and pessimistic in their view of life. Those who really understand the teaching of the Buddha will have a totally different view. We should know that the theory of “Life is suffering” taught by the Buddha is to remind us that life is not ultimate and lasting, and hence we should strive towards Buddhahood — a permanent and perfect life.” Note

Suffering is a far broader term to me than pain. Pain comes first and is primary… then from that stems suffering which is secondary. We have pain, then we react to that pain with suffering. I always feel there is some control over my suffering then, whereas I may not have much control over the initial impact of the pain, or not as much control. Pain is treated with medication, exercise and various other treatments and sometimes it works and sometimes it just does not. Suffering likewise is treated in various different ways. We see psychologists, we do biofeedback and meditation, as well as hobbies and distraction techniques. Sometimes I think we do more to confront suffering than we do the actual pain stimulus. We think about how we ‘think’ about pain. What our belief structures are about pain. Do we have negative thought patterns in regards to our illness? Is there something impeding how we cope with pain? Are there ways to decrease our suffering?

To me that is the ‘meaning’ behind suffering. Suffering is inevitable as it is universal. To survive a life that may have more pain than we would like, in whatever form that takes, we have to look at what we believe about suffering. What meaning we ascribe to it. Do we believe that it is permanent? Do we believe that it is uncontrollable? I cannot believe that. I know that suffering is something that can and does have a strong impact on our wellbeing. At times it can be overwhelming. However, I know that if we have at least some moderate control over the pain (which does seem necessary) then we can begin to find ways to manage our suffering.

I believe also in many ways pain is a meaning creating experience. Even though it is fundamentally pointless we do define our experiences by it. We do create stories defined by our victories over it. How our character is defined by it. How we are changed by it; positively or negatively. And we also have control over what story we tell. Is it a story of victory or defeat? https://w.atcontent.com/-/3oSGxph2sZe/nikki.albert/4HwjbNn-bUI.text/Panel/Autocheck

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