It seems to me that we maintain a negative attitude towards suffering. Considering that suffering, in both its physical and psychological forms, is a type of pain, this is not surprising. There is, however, another side to suffering and it is this side that I would enjoy exploring with you today. I intend to show you the necessity of suffering.
Suffering, as we know it, is pain. There is a multitude of ways in which one can suffer, and as humans we are subject to a great many of them.
Our understanding is the result of our experience and our understanding of suffering is no exception. We know suffering through that which we have personally experienced and witnessed. As a result of the pain we have experienced, we have developed a complex network of responses that act to distance us from the suffering. These responses are escape, suppression, and avoidance, and through distancing us from the suffering they reduce the pain we experience, but what is the consequence of doing this?
The consequence of these responses is that we don’t experience an episode of suffering in its entirety, which might at first appear to be an advantage, but is actually a disadvantage. Suffering contains in it a deeper meaning than merely that of experiencing pain: it is an indicator that tells you that a mistake has been made, and by embracing that suffering you can learn from that mistake.
Suffering contains in it a lesson that, if properly listened to, can be absorbed and act to prevent a similar discourse of suffering happening in the future. However, when one escapes, suppresses, or avoids suffering, that experience is cut short and one is inhibited from comprehending the lesson it is conveying. These responses act to stop one completing the experience of suffering and seeing what it is signifying, which results in one repeating the same mistakes and experiencing the same pain in the future.
What is important is that you go through suffering, not cut it down in its prime.
Only when you understand that suffering is necessary in order to educate yourself to your own mistakes will the responses described above fall away and bring about a great attention towards pain. That attention will result in a learning that will free you from repeating the same experiences – this is psychological progression.
There are only two roads to take: one in which you neglect suffering and re-experience the same pain the next day, or one in which you give pain your total attention, learn its lesson, and free yourself from it forever. Which road you take is not a decision bound by choice; the moment you see the necessity of suffering there is only one road to take.
Suffering is a great teacher, but he only teaches the hard lessons. He is a teacher that is always disliked until you complete the course, upon which you will respect his presence.