PAIN VS SUFFERING
I’m going to apologize in advanced for any spoilers that may come up as I write this, but I was inspired to touch upon this subject when I was Recently introduced to the television series Orange is the New Black.
Relatively early in the series, a character named Tiffany Doggette, more commonly
known as Pennsatucky, was sexually assaulted by a prison guard. Later in the series, however, she forgave the guard for the attack. This forgiveness was not for the purpose of relieving him of his guilt, but to relieve herself of her suffering. However, regardless of Tiffany’s feelings, her friend, and former cellmate, Big Boo, refused to let the matter drop.
Pennsatucky then says the following:
“Do you know the difference between pain and suffering? Pain is going to happen. Life is f**king painful. But suffering is a choice.”
Consider what that means for a minute.
When you think back on your life now, how many painful memories can you recall? How did you deal with them? Did you accept them for what they were? Did you learn from them? Did you allow your life to go on and move forward on your journey despite them?
Or did you wallow in them? Allow them to engulf you? Put everything on hold because what happened… happened?
Did you make the choice to suffer?
When I lost my vision, a lot of things went with it. I could no longer play sports; pick up a book whenever I felt like it; watch movies; enjoy sunsets; lose myself in the visual wonders of the world; and the list goes on. Even though I always knew that complete vision loss could be a possibility, it didn’t make the experience any less painful. I knew there was a stigma associated with being blind that would find its way into my work, my romantic relationships, and my every day interactions with people.
That would be something that I would have to live with. The loss of my vision left me with a choice. Option A: I could live a risk-free life, or Option B: I could live the full life that I deserved. Either I could fall into a state of self-pity, allow myself to be coddled and never put myself out there, or I could accept the fact that I had to learn to function despite this adversity. If I were to thrive, I had to challenge all of my fears and all of my insecurities around my new reality.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that there was a period in which I chose Option A.
I had just gotten out of a wonderfully nurturing relationship; had been denied at least a dozen job opportunities; and the weight of the stigma was pressing down on me harder than ever. For eight months I hardly left the house at all. I pretended to look for work, and essentially did nothing productive.
It was by watching a friend of mine overcome similar challenges and succeed that finally woke me up. His success provided me with something that I’d thought I’d run out of— hope. I realized I couldn’t live that way anymore. The man who chose Option A wasn’t the man I wanted to be. I needed to suck it up, learn what I needed to learn, and get back to living.
And the moment I made that choice, the whole world opened to me. Only because I decided that I was no longer going to let my pain control my life. I was going to create my own way, regardless of how much it sucked. Pain it was not going to be the thing that held me down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you can’t have a grieving period. But there is a difference between grieving and allowing pain to shape your actions and the path you take. There is something to be learned with every painful experience.
Something that will help you grow as a person. Whether you experience the breaking of a long-term relationship; the death of a loved one; a debilitating injury; or a financial meltdown, there is always something to be gained from enduring and moving forward despite the pain.
“But Brandon, you’re a relationship coach. What does this have to do with building the romance and love life that I deserve?”
Did you know that the side effects of choice-induced suffering may include: debilitating stretches of self-pity and/or self-loathing; misguided emotional outbursts towards friends and loved ones; random spurts of anger, fear, sadness, guilt, and/or regret; alienation of once-valued members of your social circle; self-isolation; emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion; and dramatic decrease of self-care?
Can you see why this might affect your love life just a bit?
How much emotional energy are you spending, RIGHT NOW, on painful experiences that you’ve had in the past? How much time are you allowing that pain to run your life, instead of learning what you can learn from it, RIGHT NOW? What other areas of your life are being affected because you’ve chosen to let yourself suffer instead of grow? How much more could you have, RIGHT NOW, if you just let yourself get back on track?
I think much, much more.
So why not pick yourself up, dust yourself
off, apologize to those that you’ve pushed away and go get that more. If you truly want it, the choice is that simple.
After all, you deserve more, you can have more, and you are more. Find your more!
Have the best day of your life!