Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pain is not Suffering

Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. -Not2wo blog post "The Dharma of Rooster Sauce"

I posted the one of the recent best Modern Love columns on the Shut Up and Love Facebook Fan Page last week, but I didn't know what I could possibly add to it. The writer's husband tries to leave her, but she realizes that he's working through issues that have nothing to do with her and so gets out of the way until he could figure out what she'd already knew:
"When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within." -Laura A. Munson
In the end, the writer's enlightened handling of her husband's issues and understanding of the nature of peace kept her family together, but it would have served her well, too, even if they had decided to divorce. A friend once asked, "What are you supposed to do with emotions you want to express to an ex that you can't?" This sensation of suppressed emotions is a common post-break-up problem, and the answer is to do just what the wife in this article did:
"I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to 'The End of Suffering.' I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control."
Accept that your happiness has nothing to do with what your ex knows (i.e. your anger) or feels (i.e. remorse) or gets served (i.e. revenge, cold), because your ex is external from you. Then, you can work through the natural pain of mourning the end of a relationship even as you practice personal peace. Surely, the pain will hurt, some days worse than other, but not expecting things outside of your control (or waiting for something outside the realm of possibility) protects the heart from too much suffering.


  1. I'm not sure I get the distinction between pain and suffering, but I do get the general point about endurance. Perhaps Catholicism has predisposed me to accept life's shitty bits.

  2. Read the Not2wo "Dharma of Rooster Sauce" I linked. I don't think it's that far from Catholicism at all.

  3. i read that article, and gave that woman mad props.



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