Whoever has gone through the hurdles of physical or mental illness has a good grasp of suffering and what it entails. A few years back, it so happened that I had to undergo some extreme physical straining as I got through chemical and substantial imbalances in my body. The result was that both neurological and hormonal sub-systems revolted against me, refuting their normal obedient functioning, and turning into an incoherent turmoil. I could not recognize myself, my thoughts, or the ways my body operated and it would all resemble a disordered orchestra that the maestro is missing and every part is playing its own chords as it pleases. Pure blissful anarchy that would manifest not only in my body but in my thoughts as well.
For everyone that has gone through this draining process and has marched over his own calvarial path, knows well that there is one pattern that emerges the most. The question of why something so abstract and arbitrary would happen to you of all people. Why would something so unjust take place and befall on your head while everyone else seems to be having it so easy?
“Suffering is inherent in life”
There is an inevitable correlation of the pain you feel with the thought that maybe it is all deserved and legitimate for all the bad actions you have done in the past. Maybe somehow you need to repay for all the trouble you’ve caused as well. Maybe your suffering is there to balance the suffering you have caused. Maybe you are not as good as you would like to believe.
To many victims of hurtful occasions, it feels as if they have been picked out for their punishment out of some hidden force that lies on the background waiting to give due to what’s right. Truth be told this illusion may exist independently to everyone as there can merely exist a person that doesn’t go through some sort of pain on his own. People are like magnets that pull hurdles their way no matter where they stand in life and is quite rare for them to have it easy no matter what their life may look like on Instagram or Facebook.
“We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. We have evolved to always live with a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity, because it’s the mildly dissatisfied and insecure creature that’s going to do the most work to innovate and survive.” — Mark Manson
What stroke me as most interesting in all this, was how suffering shaped my view of the world and changed the way I was relating to it for good. For anyone that goes through this path, you can anticipate that his perception is bound to change in quite a few ways. And looking into it, suffering contains a number of effects that have a strong impact on someone’s mind. Below are 5 things that account for them the most.
Suffering Is Cathartic
No matter where it’s coming from or how related it is to your actions, suffering is going to make your shoulders lighter. There is this purifying quality in it that allows you to transcend the weight you carry on you, but you’ve never noticed. This weight exists in the form of fear and timid feelings. We are constantly thinking about how to stop worst-case scenarios from happening or the various missteps that may take place. We need to constantly worry about every little element in our life, including misfortunes and random events that may cause loss and pain.
But the thing is that once you get there, once you get through the stuff you fear the most, you realize that this kind of weight is a mind artifact that is worse than the disease. Suffering brings a strange conscience that no matter what comes your way, you can experience every single moment in its fullest. However painful it may get, it will still exist as a passing moment in the timeline flow and you’re gonna allow it to pass the same way every other thing passes, good or bad. It brings the awareness that things that exist around us may be more important for what we stand for than us per se, and we can support them through the way we stand up with our courage.
“Saying Yes to life even in its strangest and most painful episodes, the will to life rejoicing in its own inexhaustible vitality even as it witnesses the destruction of its greatest heroes — that is what I called Dionysian, that is what I guessed to be the bridge to the psychology of the tragic poet. Not in order to be liberated from terror and pity, not in order to purge oneself of a dangerous affect by its vehement discharge but in order to celebrate oneself the eternal joy of becoming, beyond all terror and pity — that tragic joy included even joy in destruction” — Fiedrich Nietzsche
In that sense, suffering is freeing because it gets you right into the mud that we are all scared of for most of our lives and eradicates the fear of it.
Suffering Allows A Glimpse Of Yourself You Otherwise Wouldn’t Get
Suffering consists of unpleasant situations that come out of the ordinary and hit us in the most unexpected of ways. We get the chance to observe ourselves as it awakens genes that have been put to sleep a long time ago, and see yourself in full action. It’s not surprising to caught yourself acting in ways you would never have anticipated before. And it would also not be strange to realize how many unhidden potentials and power exists within us that is mostly untapped and unrealized. Getting into extreme situations can be quite revealing of the qualities you have and the ways you work.
“Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.” — James Allen
In the same way, when people expose themselves to the world through their work and actions, they awaken parts in them that wouldn’t come to the surface otherwise. Our whole body is gonna respond differently, and your brain will bring up resources that wouldn’t be requested unless needed. All in response to getting in touch with the world and dealing with the possible blows that may come from it.
“If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to
yourself. When you explore boldly, when you voluntarily confront
the unknown, you gather information and build your renewed self out of that
information. However, researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed in a new situation” — Jordan Peterson.
And who can forget the incredible knowledge of witnessing yourself going through such paths and bypassing the hurdles? Who can forget the immeasurable pride that comes with the knowledge that you can manage such a task and survive it resourcefully? The identity and self-image you hold yourself in, will never be the same again. You will look at the people around you and you’ll realize that very few of them had the opportunity to really know any of this and that most will never get the chance to experience themselves going through the most extreme fluctuations. This is something you can’t know unless you go through it yourself. In that sense, one can get a different understanding of the famous motto.
“What does not kill me makes me stronger.” — Nietzsche
Suffering Brings Gratitude
Imagine you are marching through your life the same way you’ve always been and run most of your actions in the autopilot mode that is the most common attitude in this scenario. It’s only natural to forget about what exists in your life and the blessing you get to enjoy already. We are made in a way to always forget our situational standards and look for ways to advance further from where we are and make the next step. Which means you get to pass your life in a constant agonizing chase that only brings misery and distress. We are getting accustomed to our surroundings and forget to appreciate the diamonds in our life.
Part of the good things that happened with the pandemic was that we got to appreciate the things we had for granted. Spending time with friends or family, going to the cinema, or visiting a nice restaurant. They all got a new perspective on them. And somehow suffering always makes apparent the things we had forgotten.
Suffering Brings Humbleness
In the same way, suffering teaches us one crucial lesson. We lack control of anything external. We can’t regulate what happens to the world or how people react to things around us. We may wake up one morning to find out we’ve lost our jobs, or that our spouse left us. And we have no choice other than to move forward with the new scenario at hand the best way we can.
“Humbleness is the understanding that you have no control.”
No matter how strong the shock is, eventually, we’ll realize that there is one thing we can control and it exists within us. In the actions and behaviors, we put forward to relate to everybody else. That is the only thing we can assert our power on, and it can be very empowering to discover it.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius
In that way, humbleness is not only about pain and difficulties but about the successes as well. If you happened to accumulate wealth and a nice house. Or if you find yourself a bit too pleased with your possession and achievements, humbleness allows you to realize that they are all external and could be liable to change at a moment’s notice.
Suffering Is Uncomfortable
One thing I realized when I was going through the physical strain, was that I couldn’t rely anymore on my current situation to find fulfillment. I couldn’t just sit on my chair and continue watching TV series or enjoy other little conveniences. I was completely thrown off my little mental comfort chair and by necessity, I had to re-engage with the world to come back to my standing. This re-engagement is what constitutes the biggest benefit of it all. Suffering shatters your life in pieces so that you establish a new relationship with the things you have around you and you had neglected for so long. You don’t have the option anymore to find joy in your little house cut out from the rest. You can’t just simply cut off the string that binds you with the outer world because you realize how connected you are with them and that eventually, everyone needs everyone else to succeed.
Suffering Makes You Stronger
There is no better way to say this than with the following quote.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ― Kahlil Gibran0