How to Reduce Suffering

Introduction

Suffering and pain are almost inevitable experiences that we will all face at some point in our lives. Whether it is psychological, emotional, physical, or even spiritual, it is unfortunately very likely that we will endure some amount of hardship in one way or another. Having said that, there is a great difference between suffering needlessly, like an eternal victim of the negative circumstances of the world, and becoming a triumphant hero who is able to overcome their struggles, by allowing their discomfort to motivate them to become even stronger and wiser.

In religious terms, some consider suffering to be a punishment from God for not living in accordance with his will, whilst others believe the Devil to be the true cause of the suffering of humanity. Atheists take a more rational approach and believe it to simply be an unfortunate element of existence itself. Regardless of whether these beliefs are true or not, suffering is here to stay for the time being, and so we should become more prepared to deal with it by developing resilience, and learning skills to cope more effectively.

Causes of suffering range from the mistreatment from others, physical ailments, mental health disorders, trauma, tragedy, spiritual crises, general fears, extreme guilt, shame and self-hate.

People respond to suffering in a variety of ways, some of which have led to some of the worst crimes in history, and others have allowed people to transcend their suffering and become greater versions of themselves. Other methods include denial, distractions, medication, and various other ways of trying to numb the pain. The following three tips will hopefully give a more mature and healthy way of effectively reducing suffering experienced in our lives.


Tip 1: Self-compassion

When you suffer, you should practice having compassion for yourself, which should help mitigate much of the pain that comes with it. If you are being hard on yourself, or you believe that you don’t deserve compassion and forgiveness, then a good tip is to imagine you are caring for a close friend, family member, or other loved one.

Instead of saying:

1) “I’m a helpless victim”

2) “I deserves this”

3) “Why did this happen to me”

4) “I’m worthless”

Say:

1) “I choose to be a survivor”

2) “No one deserves to suffer”

3) “Nothing is personal”

4) “I am worthy, even though I am imperfect and make mistakes”

This method is particularly useful is you are ‘beating yourself up’ for mistakes and sins that you have made in the past. You should be aware of immoral things that you have done, and aim to change them, but endlessly tormenting yourself isn’t helpful and will only make things worse.


Tip 2: Meaning

It was theorised by the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who lived through the Holocaust, that one of the best solutions to suffering in life is by searching for meaning in it. He developed Logotherapy, which is a therapy based on existential analysis, and focusses on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning. One of the key principles is that striving to find meaning in our lives, is the most powerful, motivating and driving force in humans.

The three basic principles of logotherapy are as follows:

  1. Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  2. Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  3. We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

So whatever problems we are facing in our lives, whether we are being haunted by memories of the past, or anticipating fears of the future, we should try to discover and derive some meaning out of it if possible. Sometimes the answer we are looking for may be obvious, whereas other times the meaning or purpose may seem elusive, so we will have to try harder to find it.


Tip 3: Defence mechanisms

Two people may experience the same problem, the same frustration, the same pain and suffering, yet decide to deal with it in two completely different ways. The brain uses defence mechanisms to deal with unacceptable, or potentially harmful, stimuli and impulses. Many of these are classed as immature or even self destructive, whereas some are far more healthy and productive. The following are three recommended mature defence mechanisms that you should learn to use, and incorporate into your life; as opposed to the immature, destructive, and self-defeating ones.

1) Altruism – One of the best and most productive ways to feel better about yourself and to distract yourself from pain is to focus on helping others instead. Ideas: help to feed or clothe the homeless, join an animal rights group, volunteer in a charity shop of soup kitchen, choose a vocation which is concerned with helping people, donate money to a worthwhile cause. Read this article for ideas on random acts of kindness: https://daringtolivefully.com/random-acts-of-kindness-ideas

2) Sublimation – Sublimation means to transform unacceptable impulses into more socially acceptable ones, which are more productive and less harmful. Examples include: take up running, cycling, play a sport, try martial arts, exercise, workout, creative expression such as music, writing or painting.

3) Gratitude – Perhaps the problem isn’t that we are suffering too much; perhaps the problem is that we are not practicing gratitude enough to counterbalance the bad things in life. As often as you can make a mental or physical note of things that you feel grateful for. These could be positive memories from long ago, recent achievements and accomplishments, or any personal development you have noticed.


Quotes

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“How do you overcome the suffering of life? Be a better person.” ~ Jordan Peterson

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ~ Victor Frankl

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” ~ Victor Frankl


Other recommended posts

Overcoming Depression – https://www.reddit.com/r/MindOverMatterScott/comments/bcf4n1/overcoming_depression/

How to Deal with Suicidal Feelings – https://www.reddit.com/r/MindOverMatterScott/comments/cfej01/how_to_deal_with_suicidal_feelings/

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