We all want to be happy yet we all continue to suffer. Therefore, we may think that we’re “doing it wrong.” Somehow we are “failing at happiness.” That isn’t true. The real truth is that suffering and happiness are cut from the same cloth. It’s impossible to have one without the other. I recently read a wonderful book called No mud, No Lotus that sheds some light on the matter, (pun soon to be intended). Here is an interesting excerpt from the book:
According to the creation story in the biblical book of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light.” I like to imagine that light replied, saying, “God, I have to wait for my twin brother, darkness, to be with me. I can’t be there without the darkness.” God asked, “Why do you need to wait? Darkness is there.” Light answered, “In that case, then I am also already there.”
You see for each of us there is a combination of happiness and suffering going on within us at any given time. You can’t have one without the other. It just depends on which of the 2 you nurture. Too often we take life’s minor irritations and turn them into suffering. This is our choice and represents our focus and the questions that we ask ourselves. I’ve said it before; the questions you ask yourself define what your brain will focus on albeit joy and happiness or pain and suffering.
There will certainly be times in life when suffering takes the driver’s seat. Losing a loved one or suffering a painful breakup for instance can be devastating. I think the bigger question is, should we do everything to avoid the pain of the loss? Why would you want to deprive yourself of a powerful yet painful emotion that is necessary for true healing and personal growth? Perhaps the support of family and friends and the passing of time will not only help you to overcome the sadness but also allow happiness to take over again.
Being able to enjoy happiness doesn’t require that we have zero suffering. In fact, the art of happiness is also the art of suffering well. When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less. Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy for ourselves and for others. One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that there is no realm where there’s only happiness and there’s no suffering. This doesn’t mean that we should despair. Suffering can be transformed. As soon as we open our mouth to say “suffering,” we know that the opposite of suffering is already there as well. Where there is suffering, there is happiness.
Unfortunately our society is so busy trying to stop the suffering that we are not embracing an important part of who we are. Drug companies provide plenty of over the counter pills and even more powerful prescription pain relieving drugs. Many of these medications like Citalopram, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Lorazepam, Prozac (take your pick) are designed to block out emotional pain. Harvard Medical School reported that as of their last survey from 2005 to 2008, the use of these medications has risen 400%.
Why would you want to block out the pain? Doesn’t it make more sense to understand it and transform into back into happiness? More people in America today are being treated for anxiety than ever before. Anxiety is a normal human emotion and each of us experience anxiety on some level everyday of our lives. It’s normal people.
Life is difficult, I’ll grant you that. Without the difficulties you can’t grow and become the person you were intended to be. When life gets tough, we experience anxiety which is a normal emotion getting the body ready for the challenge ahead. Drugging yourself, over-eating, drinking excessive alcohol are not the best choices for long-term happiness. They simply push your demons to another room in the house. Eventually you will open that door thinking the demons are gone only to realize that you’re still controlled by them. This is when life starts to suck and you lose the drive, you give up on your dreams, and you become an average person living an average life. When you die, know one will know you were even here.
Take back the control and understand that happiness and suffering cannot be separated. Nurture happiness and know that at times suffering will take center stage. Feel it, embrace it and exist with it knowing that with time and support that you will grow and become stronger. It is part of a wonderful life. Take the bad with the good and remember to FEEL everything you can. That’s what humans are meant to do.
Dr. Peter Percuoco is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and a Keynote Speaker. With 30 years of experience, Dr. Percuoco has stepped out of the clinic and onto the stage to share his message of hope and potential inspiring people to be the best that they can be.