January 25, 2009

Thoughts on Pain vs. Suffering

I realised recently that if I wait until blog posts feel 'finished', I won't post very often. So I think I'll start sharing my meandering thoughts, recognising that they may not always come across coherently and that I may later disagree with myself :-)


As I was lying in bed recently, in the dark with a migraine, I was thinking a bit about the difference between pain and suffering.

Usually I think of them as the same thing but...

in theory,
pain and suffering
are two separate things.

How to experience pain
without suffering?

I really want that skill!

I bet a big part of it is
not want.

If I want to be pain free,
then any time I feel pain
I will probably
experience 'suffering'.

So, then,
is 'suffering' the experience of wanting something other than what is?

If so, most people in our culture suffer a LOT.
There are degrees of suffering. Some are more uncomfortable than others.

All this is interesting to think about but doesn't help too much in the midst of intense pain or adversity.

I realise this has been written about extensively in many circles - Buddhist ones being at the top of the list. I just never really thought about it in the same, intense way that I did the other day.

I was lying there knowing there was no escape from the pain and feeling so desperate for anything that could bring me relief.
Into my mind popped the idea that the experience of the pain would not be nearly so bad if I wasn't suffering so much.

I don't have any solutions for this, nor many ideas on how to stop wanting other than what is.
I guess one could do EFT or, if it works for them, or read up on methods of detachment such as those used in Buddhist practice. Some people find meditation or prayer help though neither have worked well for me so far.

I think of people I know who have chronic illnesses (or terminal ones) and it occurs to me that the ones who seem happy don't seem to suffer much - even when they are in pain.
I think this may be a piece of the puzzle of how to live vibrantly with illness or disability.

There are people out there who have intense pain - physical or emotional - and some of them still seem happy and alive.

What is the difference between them and those of us who are terribly unhappy or get totally bogged down by the negative in our lives?

Maybe some of them are naturally cheerful, optimistic people.

I believe it's possible for those of us who aren't naturally like that to shift our attitudes.
I have been a pretty negative person most of my life... at least about things that happen to me. I'm pretty good at being positive for others'.

I don't believe that 'positive thinking' is a magic pill but I do believe that it can really effect our quality of life. Which in turn can effect our energy levels, which in turn can effect the resources our bodies have available to heal with. I feel like everything is connected.

I think I'll write more on attitude and how I've been trying to shift mine... but I'll save it for another day. :-)

For now, I'll leave you with a link to an article about healing by Raymond Francis, a chemist who had severe MCS. I really appreciate how he expresses that thought can greatly effect us on many levels and if we want to change how we feel, we are well-served by starting with changing what we think.

He says this and much more very succinctly and I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did!
I particularly like how he says that it's not necessary to understand exactly how this works - it's just necessary to do it.

The positive thought that he suggests using is not actually one that feel right for me personally but I have heard it has worked for many people.

There are a number of articles available to read for free on his website here.


1 comment:

  1. Hi, Liberty. I've been reading your blog for a little while after I rediscovered your comment on my own blog. I love this post, because I've had the same experience with migraines. I love what you said: So, then,
    is 'suffering' the experience of wanting something other than what is? I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    I had an epiphany one night when I was going through a particularly trying month or two when I had a migraine every evening, no matter what I did. I was so tired of the pain, and yet it had almost become my friend because it was always there. I stopped wishing it away and I gave in to it. I stopped trying to think normally, and feeling bad that the pain was taking me away from my duties, and I just let it be. It actually seemed not to hurt as bad once I accepted it, but from your definition, I see that I still felt the pain as intensely, but I wasn't suffering so much.

    I've accepted my MCS, although it does still get me down sometimes. Usually when I feel I've let down my children. It seems to be getting better, or maybe I just know how to manage it now.

    I ordered a new product called Better Breathers, hopefully they will take the place of my mask. They are little nose filters that fit inside your nostrils. I ordered the carbon filters, because they filter odors.

    Sorry I rambled. :)


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