Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Suffering is Optional

Why is it that once someone begins suffering, they never seem to stop? I'm not talking about going through some hard times or hitting a few unlucky bumps along the way. I'm talking about enduring abuse, abandonment, neglect, anxiety, chaos, you know, that kind of suffering. I'm noticing a pattern where those who have made suffering an art, often began honing this art at a very young age. By the time I see these people in therapy, whether they are teenaged or an adult, the suffering has become part of their personality. To suggest there is a life otherwise is blasphemy and almost insulting.

Even those who finally have the light bulb go on and decide they want the suffering to end sometimes have difficulty walking it out. Going from a life of suffering to walking in sunshine, smiling, finding the positive, making lemonade out of lemons... well, it's HARD. I have a client who has known suffering that some of us cannot fathom. She is an adult woman now, struggling almost daily with panic attacks, worry, abusive relationships, and tensions with her children. She has supports in her life that others don't. She has a good treatment team, a good job, and a nice home. Much of the crazy in her life is of her own making. My heart just goes out to her watching her hurt herself this way and I told her, "You have suffered enough. It's time to have a great life now. You deserve it. It's ok to start your great life." I think she's starting to get it.

Today I shared a rubber band with her. She and I put a colorful band on our wrists like bracelets. I explained to her that though she had no control over the crap that has happened to her for her much of her life, this is no longer the case. Starting today it was time to find the good. I asked her to flip that rubber band on her wrist every time she has a negative, critical, or anxiety-provoking thought. After snapping the band she would then say, "God wants me to have a GOOD life and today I choose that GOOD life." I agreed that I would do the same.

I agreed to do this primarily to give her a sense of support and connection with another person. What I didn't expect is how much this exercise has affected me. I have popped my own wrist about 20 times already today and by gosh, I think I'm really beginning to believe it... God wants me to have a GOOD life and today I choose that GOOD life.

Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional.

Photo above found here:


  1. Mel,
    Mike directed me here. Good stuff! BTW. My staff finally convinced me to do a blog. You can find me at

    Take care... keep up the great writing.

  2. Thanks, Reb. I appreciate all encouragement! I'll check out your page.