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Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional


Going through pain in life is inevitable.

You know this. Oh yes, you often want to believe you can escape it by being “overly” careful. But deep inside… all of us know, we will go through pain!

An imperfect life scattered with pain, physical and emotional, makes you feel like life and people are unfair. When you are in pain, your mind says, “I deserve happiness, not yet another pain!” You work hard at your happiness, at work and at home. You try your best not to hurt others and to be steadfast and responsible.

Somehow, you still encounter pain and sorrow, sometimes right after a happy event.

You feel angry and dejected. You ask life, ‘why?’

“Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional”

The above is a meaningful Zen Aphorism.

As psychologists, we see pain and suffering from very close quarters. Why some people suffer a certain way and others in a yet different way, we do not know. Some answers of course are provided by philosophy, spiritual teachings and so on. But today’s topic is not dedicated to that.

Today we write about how your attitude towards your pain can change the meaning of it and actually decide how much you really suffer.

During our work with clients in therapy, we see people reacting to and resisting their pain, wanting it to just go away, feeling trapped and caught up in it. As a result they suffer deeply. Often this suffering becomes a focus of their life and renders them extremely unhappy.

However after a period of struggle, some people manage to create for themselves a healthy acceptance of their pain . These people come to some terms with its inevitability. They suffer less due to their pain.

What is even more rewarding is that this attitude often gets them in touch with their most beautiful side. Its brings out in them some of their best qualities such as:

  • Compassion
  • Forgiveness
  • Acceptance
  • Resilience
  • Courage

Pain Can Open You Up

The point is, most of the above feelings can be most deeply experienced when in some way you have been pained and have suffered for it. Being able to sense these qualities in yourself can be a very soft and opening up experience.

You feel compassionate to someone’s suffering because you too have suffered; you feel resilient because you have suffered and have managed to overcome it; you feel courageous to face pain again because you know what it means to be in pain and so on…

Pain in life can sometimes open you up and teach you what nothing else can.

As Kahlil Gibran says

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding…

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain


Read the rest of the poem here. Its a beautiful poem!

Wish you all a fulfilling, enriching life

Do write in about your experiences with pain and how you have handled it via the comments section. It would benefit whoever reads it. Also, if you know somebody who would benefit by reading this article, do share it with them.


Image Credit: Sadia Raval



Post contributed by: Sadia Raval and Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she worked with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space, from 2010 to 2015. 


  1. Dear Minal,
    We’re glad you found the article helpful. We gladder that you are trying to build an attitude of positivity and compassion. It helps you support yourself better during rough times. Thanks a lot for commenting and sharing with us, its touching 🙂
    Thanks and hope the rough phase eases ofF eventually
    Take Care

  2. Thank you so much, I am going through a rough phase and this is the right time to read this article. I am able to relate to the article very well, as I am trying to build an attitude of positivity.
    This change in attitude is helping me to be more lovable, compassionate towards myself and others…

    Thank you for the wonderful poem…

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