A Case for Suffering

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


Pain is great motivator. Rather, avoiding pain is a great motivator. We avoid pain like the plague, do we not? Whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, the pain of being inconvenienced or perceived negative. We run from it like it will light us on fire if it were to catch us.

No one wants to hurt. We each have our own experience with hurt and it was not good. When we were hurt we were vulnerable and exposed. We looked weak and helpless. Dependent on those around us and they possibly let us down when they found us in this tender state. What typically happens after experiencing a GREAT pain is the decision to never let that happen again. So we avoid pain by constructing a life that will prevent us from ever having to do so.

I frequently hear that people won’t go to therapy because they don’t want to go through their past, their painful memories. They don’t want to go back to that awful time in their life. Why on earth would anyone pay to talk about and unearth that dark past?

Because avoiding it isn’t working.

So much of our current life is, in part, our efforts to never experience that pain again. However, the attempts to keep that pain away are unsuccessful because they don’t address the problem. We continue to have to medicate that old pain. And, unfortunately, there isn’t enough food, sex, alcohol or drugs to anesthetize the pain we’ve endured. We keep putting a band-aid on a broken leg and expecting to be able to walk on it without limping. We’re not addressing the problem. We’re simply numbing it, keeping our fingers crossed that it will be gone when the “medication” wears off. No such luck.

Put simply, avoiding pain is avoiding healing. The very thing we must do to set ourselves up for healing can be the most painful part of the process. When we put down the very things that help keep our pain at bay, we are suddenly flooded with the feelings we attempted to avoid. But a dislocated shoulder must be reset into the socket. A gash must be cleaned and sewn shut. Then. Then the healing can begin. Not before.

We can miss something with pain and suffering. We can “throw the baby out with the bath water,” so to speak, by assuming all pain as bad or wrong. To be avoided at all costs. It is from our trials, our suffering, where so much learning and development can occur. There is so much opportunity for growth, humility, forgiveness and transformation. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” said the Persian poet, Rumi. If we avoid pain, we avoid the possibility of experiencing real change in our lives.

I get it. Pain sucks. No one wants to be in pain. But can you honestly tell me that avoiding it is any less painful? Can you say that you aren’t currently enduring pain as you attempt to flee the agony of the real problem? Isn’t that exhausting? What I’m saying is, if you’re going to be in pain either way, why not endure a pain that could result in healing?

Therapy generates an opportunity to navigate through old pains, hurts and offenses gently. It creates a purpose for your pain. Your suffering becomes an investment into your future that is no longer riddled with fear and discomfort, but one that is free from those very things. What would your life look like if you weren’t always in pain?


Written by Ashlee Secord, owner of Thrive Therapy, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Burnsville, MN. Contact Thrive Therapy today to begin addressing the pain you’re experiencing in your life and begin removing the obstacles it generates.