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Inevitable Pain and Optional Suffering

Updated on April 29, 2015

Pain is inevitable while suffering is optional. So goes an old saying. Since there is no saying like an old saying, and the particular saying under the scanner has stood the test of time although the name of the person to whom it was originally attributed had not been recorded for posterity, it may be safely assumed a priory that there must be much merit in the saying. The saying implies that pain and suffering are not always intertwined as it is generally believed. Pain does not, therefore, necessarily entail suffering.

Causes of Pain

Pain could be self-induced or inflicted on someone by an external agency or set of circumstances. Physical pain may be the result of an accident either on account of an act or a series of acts of negligence on your or someone else's part or due to circumstances beyond one's control. Alternatively, pain may be consciously inflicted on someone by another person by means of an act of cruelty out of spite or vengeance. And then, there are natural disasters and calamities which could cause unspeakabe pain. Hurt and pain caused by natural disasters and calamities like earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis etc are inexplicable.

Getting Hurt and Hitting Out

In any case, pain is not a welcome sensation which everyone understandably tries to avoid. However, you can only run from it but not hide. There is no dearth of occasions laden with excuses for bringing forth pain. Pain could come in multitudes during the shortest period of time. The more unexpected the pain, the more its intensity. No amount of preparedness is sufficient for one to totally escape pain all the time. When pain hits you, you inevitably wince. What follows is where your true nature comes into play. You may cry out and curse or grin and bear it. When you cry out and curse, it is a response demonstrative of your lack of control on your faculties and how close to the surface of life you live. When such a shallow response which is generally called a knee jerk reaction, is followed by hitting out either at the person whom you hold responsible for causing the pain or an innocent, and often a weaker, bystander or even a lifeless object, your vindictive or violent inner nature, which had hitherto been wall-papered by a gossamer-thin veneer of sophistication, is manifested in all its primitive glory for one and all to see. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is the law of the jungle. How far removed from or close to the jungle you are, becomes amply evident from your violent physical reaction or the hurt you inflict by the instinctive verbal onslaught launched on others. By hitting out at someone or subjecting someone to a tongue-lashing, you succumb to the urge of transporting yourself way back in time when there was an enemy hiding in every bush. In the absence of such an enemy at hand in today's world, you perceive one hidden in the closest person or object, hit out in the name of self defence and indulge in imaginary thumping of your chest by telling yourself that you are now safe.

Hitting out at the perceived enemy, which essentially constitues an act of revenge, distracts your mind momentarily from the reality of unbearable pain. You succeed albeit momentarily in escaping the intensity of the pain by taking your mind off it when you could not avoid the pain itself in the first place. The sense of this small victory gives you the much needed strength to stand the pain.


Grin and Bear It

On the contrary, when you grin and bear the pain, you hold nobody responsible. You know it had to happen sooner or later, no matter how. Being the strong person that you are, you can't bear a grudge against an enemy, real or perceived and, instead, try to defend yourself by alleviating the pain. While a balm could heal a physical hurt, it is only by dipping into your reserves of inner strength, that you could ensure succour and relief to the pain brought about by emotional hurt. While hitting out at someone yields a very temporary relief in the form of a psychological satisfaction, which would subsequently transform into a feeling of remorse, withstanding the pain of hurt, physical or emotional, with the aid of inner strength enables you to be impervious to the consequent suffering. Unlike in the case of suffering smothered and suppressed by pain killers or sedatives, which may be necessary and advisable, depending on the nature of hurt and intensity of pain, being impervious to the after effects of hurt and pain enables you to be oblivious of the suffering.

Overcoming Hurt and Pain

Drawing on the reserves of inner strength does not come naturally and not, in any case, to every one. You need to cultivate a remarkable degree of fortitude to which a healthy body and a sound mind are essential pre-requisites. An indomitable mind and an agile body along with a steely resolve and pliant spirit help you achieve a veritable state of equanimity which is a sine qua non for becoming truly impervious of hurts and pains. This is not a state which one comes by through a certain combination of physical, and mental exercises and adoptation of spiritual postures. A healthy living, positive frame of mind and emancipation from spiritual cobwebs, procrustean beliefs and moth-eaten value system, sustenance of faith in Truth and Piety and conviction in the indomitable human spirit are the necessary virtues to accomplish freedom from pain and suffering.

Pain is very real and often unavoidable in a world of harsh realities and uncertainties. Suffering is often the end result which can be sidestepped with the help of fortitude and a strong will, conviction and confidence in one's inner powers and faith in the Providence.


Falling In and Falling Out

There is the worst case of pain and ache suffered when you feel let down by someone whom you love with all your heart. No cure has been invented for the ensuing suffering. It is, however, important to realize that in this world of transient nature, love is, no matter how sincere and well-placed, only a fleeting sentiment of ephemeral nature. Even as you fall in love with your head in the clouds, it is important to have your feet firmly planted on the earth, and learn to let go. Remember Bob Marley's famous words:
"The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."

© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman


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