Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional

Tuesday 19 October 2010, 5.36am HKT

Those mugs people who know me personally know the headline is my signature quotation.

I came up with that myself many, many years ago. I thought it was my own until it transpired that someone else had beat me to it.

The quotation is often attributed to American author Kathleen Casey Theisen. It is also claimed by some people (quite tenuously, I might add) to be a Buddhist proverb.

Great minds think alike, no?

In fact, it is anonymous, which goes to show life ain’t perfect.

But I like this guy’s way of really laying it out:

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love it they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”

(Jim Morrison, 1943-71, American singer and poet, member of the American band The Doors and one of rock music’s most iconic figures.)

3 Responses to “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”

  1. madtante said

    Noticed your comment following mine on another blog…

    Thoughtful post.

    The title, your quote, is something I’ve come across through Buddhist study, too. I used to think that meant we had to always “put up with” whatever pain given us and some how shine, like “Still I Rise.”

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I’ll rise.

    Course, mine was more physical but knowing something of Ms. Angelou’s biography, it’s in there.

    When I got older, I started thinking I deserved to be hurt, that I’d done something in a past life and had to be tempered by whatever this was in order to transcend, eventually.

    Then, I figured out avoidance works best. Hey, I know that’s in opposition to everybody’s thought but it works pretty much.

    As you parse it out, I’m less afraid of others than myself. I know what I come from and I know how monstrous a human can be to another. That’s in me – this lifetime. It’s like being a ticking time-bomb. I keep distance for the safety of others as much as for my own.


    • Your comment’s pretty deep too. My understanding of my own signature quotation is, basically, pain will come whether we like it or not, so just accept it and live with it. But suffering it (and suffering *under* it) is so totally unnecessary if we still have a modicum of ability to – as we say in England – “sort it out.” BTW, your gravatar, you look nowhere near middle-aged. Far, far too attractive.


  2. Pain is a part of the currency of life- it is one of the things about this temporal existence that gives it meaning. Suffering is a choice, we can suffer pain or we can embrace it and use it to grow.
    Great blog! I look forward to reading it in future!


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