fantasy, people, mysticism, Suffering

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In this article, we will investigate the concept of suffering, its meaning, origins, and also the idea that a lot of suffering is optional, depending on how we choose to deal with pain.

What is suffering?

Suffering is a broad term that encompasses various forms of physical or mental pain, unpleasantness or aversion, often associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm Wikipedia, (n.d.). Suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena, meaning that it is an undesirable or unpleasant experience that motivates people to avoid or escape it Wikipedia, (n.d.).

The opposite of suffering is pleasure or happiness, which are positive valence of affective phenomena that motivate people to seek or maintain them Wikipedia, (n.d.). Suffering can have various causes, such as illness, injury, loss, oppression, injustice, violence, war, famine, natural disasters, etc. Merriam-Webster, (n.d.). Suffering can also have various effects, such as distress, misery, agony, depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. Merriam-Webster, (n.d.). It can be measured by various methods, such as self-report scales, behavioural indicators, physiological markers, etc. Wikipedia, (n.d.). Suffering can be alleviated by various means, such as medical treatment, psychological therapy, social support, spiritual practices, humanitarian aid, etc. Cambridge Dictionary, (n.d.).

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History of suffering

The origin and history of the term suffering are not clear, but some sources suggest that it may be related to the Latin word sufferre, which means “to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under” Online Etymology Dictionary, (n.d.). The word suffering was first used in the 14th century in English, with the meaning of “undergoing or submitting to stress, affliction, pain, death” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). The word also has a sense of “submitting meekly to” something or someone Online Etymology Dictionary, (n.d.).

Different religions and philosophical traditions have different views on the nature, origin, causes, meaning, and remedies of suffering. For example, Hinduism teaches that suffering is caused by ignorance and attachment to worldly desires, and that it can be overcome by following the path of dharma (righteousness), karma (action), and moksha (liberation) BBC Bitesize, (n.d.). Buddhism teaches that suffering is caused by craving and ignorance, and that it can be eliminated by following the Noble Eightfold Path of wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental discipline BBC Bitesize, (n.d.). Christianity teaches that suffering is a result of sin and evil in the world, and that it can be redeemed by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ BBC Bitesize, (n.d.).

Suffering is a universal and complex phenomenon that affects all sentient beings in various ways. It poses many challenges and questions for human understanding and coping. It also inspires many responses and actions from individuals and communities to alleviate or transform suffering into something meaningful or positive.

Is suffering optional?

pain is mandatory, suffering is an option”. This is a common saying that reflects the idea that pain is inevitable in life, but how we react to it determines whether we suffer or not. pain can be physical, emotional, or psychological, and it can be caused by various factors such as injury, illness, loss, stress, or trauma. However, pain does not have to lead to suffering, which is the negative emotional state that arises from resisting, avoiding, or attaching to pain. Suffering can prolong and intensify pain, and it can also affect our wellbeing, happiness, and quality of life.

According to some psychological theories, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), one way to reduce suffering is to accept pain as a natural part of life and to cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. By doing so, we can reduce the impact of pain on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and we can also increase our resilience, coping skills, and positive emotions. Moreover, we can choose to act in accordance with our values and goals, rather than letting pain dictate our actions. In other words, we can choose to live a meaningful life despite pain.

Here are some quotes supporting the idea that suffering is an option:

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“The root of all suffering is attachment.” Buddha

“The pain will leave once it has finished teaching you.” Bruce Lee

“Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.” Ovid

“It is when I struggle that I strengthen. It is when challenged to my core that I learn the depth of who I am.” Steve Maraboli

“Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process.” Robert Greene

These quotes suggest that pain is inevitable and unavoidable in life, but suffering is a result of our attachment, impatience, weakness, or ignorance. We can choose to learn from pain, grow from pain, or transcend pain, instead of dwelling on it and letting it consume us. Therefore, suffering is an option that we can either accept or reject.

How to reduce suffering

One of the most common questions that people ask themselves is how to reduce their suffering. Suffering is a universal human experience that can arise from various causes, such as loss, pain, disappointment, or fear.

However, suffering is not inevitable, and there are ways to cope with it and even transform it into something positive. Here are some of the best ways for an individual to reduce their suffering, based on the wisdom of different sources.

Accept the reality of the situation. One of the main sources of suffering is resisting or denying what is happening in the present moment. As Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, said, “We suffer more in imagination than in reality” WisdomQuotes, (n.d.). By accepting the reality of the situation, we can avoid adding unnecessary suffering to our pain and grief. We can also focus on what we can control and change, rather than what we cannot.

Find meaning in the suffering. Another way to reduce suffering is to find some meaning or purpose in it. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote that “suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning” WisdomQuotes, (n.d.). By finding meaning in our suffering, we can use it as an opportunity to grow, learn, or help others. For example, some people who have suffered from depression use their experience to raise awareness and support others who are struggling The depression Project, (n.d.).

Practice gratitude and compassion. A third way to reduce suffering is to practice gratitude and compassion for ourselves and others. gratitude helps us appreciate what we have and what is good in our lives, rather than focusing on what we lack or what is wrong. compassion helps us empathize with others who are suffering and offer them kindness and support. As Helen Keller, a deaf-blind activist and author, said, “The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it” WisdomQuotes, (n.d.). By practising gratitude and compassion, we can reduce our own suffering and contribute to the wellbeing of others.

Seek professional help if needed. A fourth way to reduce suffering is to seek professional help if needed. Sometimes, our suffering may be too overwhelming or persistent to cope with on our own. In such cases, it may be beneficial to seek the help of a therapist, counsellor, or other mental health professional who can provide us with guidance, support, and treatment. There is no shame in asking for help when we need it; it is a sign of strength and courage.

These are some of the best ways for an individual to reduce their suffering. However, they are not exhaustive or definitive; each person may find different ways that work best for them. The important thing is to remember that suffering is not permanent or hopeless; there are always ways to cope with it and overcome it.


BBC Bitesize. (n.d.). Good and evil Unit 1.

Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.) SUFFERING | English meaning. Retrieved December 22, 2023 from

Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (2011). Acceptance and commitment therapy: The process and practice of mindful change (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness (Revised ed.). Bantam Books.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.) Suffering Definition & meaning. Retrieved December 22, 2023 from

The depression Project. (n.d.). 150+ positive, uplifting, encouraging quotes for depression. Retrieved from

The Feel Good Lab, (n.d). Suffering quotes.

Wikipedia. (n.d.) Suffering. Retrieved December 22, 2023 from

wisdom quotes (n.d.). Suffering quotes.

WisdomQuotes. (n.d.). 79 suffering quotes to bring some relief in your life. Retrieved from


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