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Does Suffering Promote A Better Life Than Those Who Have Experienced Minimal Suffering?
Intended audience: Readers of Blogging For a Better Life (http://bit.ly/2mTMnSx)
Researchers Meeta Malhotra and Suma Chebiyan studied post-traumatic growth through electronic databases to explore the positive changes following adversity.
Suffering is a universal state of being most individuals have experienced one way or another. People aim to stay away from grief and strive for happiness instead, nevertheless, we learn suffering is unavoidable. One may believe the suffering endured by individuals is incurable and they will live and die a life filled with terrible experiences. However, those who endure and persevere through the suffering will live more of a good life than those who experience minimal suffering because of the important lessons of appreciation, companionship, and freedom learned along the way that bring meaning and purpose to one’s life.
In order to have meaning and a purpose in one’s life, the person must find meaning in their suffering. Without suffering, the good life cannot be achieved. The reason why meaning and purpose can arise through difficult times is because one learns to appreciate to a greater extent. When everything is going good, people involuntarily take it for granted. The loving relationships around and the privileges that should be treasured are just part of everyday life. People are simply living in the moment. However, when experiencing an all-time low, one begins to appreciate more than before and become more grateful for the little things that were once taken for granted.
“After my first cancer, even the smallest joys in life took on a special meaning- watching a beautiful sunset. That feeling has not diminished with time. After my second and third cancers, the simple joys of life are everywhere and are boundless, as I cherish my family and friends and contemplate the rest of my life, a life I certainly do not take for granted” – Jonathan Bloom, participant of the Post-Traumatic Growth Research study
The sun sets everyday yet it took suffering for the cancer patient to realize how beautiful it truly is.
Not only does suffering create an appreciation for life, but it also teaches people how important it is to form relationships. The good life cannot be achieved without relationships and experiencing tough times together creates unforgettable and stronger bonds. Depression and isolation are consequences of having no relationships, inevitably leading to unhappiness and a lonely life (http://bit.ly/2mttwlS). According to the article, "the individual may perceive a higher emotional connection with others, as well as a feeling of closeness in interpersonal relationships” during post traumatic growth (Malhotra & Chebiyan, 2016, p.110). When having the support of other people, difficult times become more bearable.
At high level of suffering, one may feel like life is not worth living because there is no purpose. However, relationships are formed from suffering and from suffering, meaning is derived. The three are intertwined as an individual realizes although they are suffering in the present, there is hope in the future. When looking into the future, the person finds importance to strive for and a rapid growth in the individual occurs. The article indicates that “when people who have experienced severe trauma have been compared with those who have not reported trauma, positive personal changes are reported at a reliably higher level among trauma survivors” (Malhotra & Chebiyan, 2016, p.117). This demonstrates that there is a positive change in the individual as a result of the lessons learned during difficult times.
Researchers Malhotra and Chebiyan often hear clients say, “I can’t do what I want to do because he or she wouldn’t like it". In order to live the good life, the only one capable of setting yourself free from limitations is yourself. Grief teaches people who experience it to strive for freedom because life is too short for restraints. However, suffering proves setting yourself free is not an easy task but once it is accomplished, it is more liberating and heartwarming than any other moment. It makes one realize not to waste time on unimportant matters or unworthy emotions but to focus on what really matters in life (http://bit.ly/2mttwlS). Once a purpose is found, one is set free. In return, the individual obtains a better life than those who are still limited by insignificant troubles and emotions because of minimal suffering.
From the research and analysis above, one can see that suffering is a necessary component in living a better life because it brings meaning and purpose to individuals. Why is this relevant? Well although we know this fact is true, many Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose and do not know what makes their lives meaningful. People believe having more money, better clothes, bigger houses, bigger cars and more friends will lead them to the good life but this is not true. In fact, American income is the highest it has ever been and ironically, the level of happiness is at its all-time low according to Time Magazine (http://ti.me/2n8b0wx).
It is significant to realize this because it makes one apprehend how important it is to have meaning in life. Meaning increases an individual’s overall well-being, mental health and the chances of having a good life. Today, people are on the pursuit of happiness but ironically, this leaves people less happy. As Victor Frankl said in his novel Man’s Search for Meaning...
“it is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness” (90).
Image by Bruce Rosenstein
Hopefully, this blog will teach the current generation to find meaning and internal happiness instead of chasing external desires. In order to truly achieve the good life, we have a choice. We can seek to escape our physical and emotional pain or learn how to accept the fact that we cannot change suffering but instead, build skills to persevere through it and get out of it something positive. The choice is up to you.
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Frankl, Victor E. "Man’s Search for Meaning". New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Print.
Malhotra, Meeta, and Suma Chebiyan. "Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes Following Adversity - An Overview." International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. Scientific & Academic Publishing, 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2017 .
Pexel Pictures. "American Dream". St. Louis, Missouri. Web. 23 February 2014
Rosenstein, Bruce. "Happiness". Museum of Mod. Art. Academy of Art University Collection, LUNA. Academy of Art University. Web. 27 Apr. 2011 .
Smith, Angela. "The Sunset". 2015. ARTstor. Web. 1 July 2010.