10 Apr Are there positive benefits to suffering? Almost certainly…yes!
Here at The Happiness Institute we spend much time, not surprisingly, promoting happiness!
But when we talk about "happiness" what we're really talking about is…living our best lives; thriving; flourishing.
This involves focusing as much as possible on "the good" BUT it also, notably, involves facing up to "the bad", the cold, hard realities…and managing these as constructively and helpfully as possible.
So it also involves learning from mistakes, looking for lessons in hardship, accepting suffering for what it is but moving on as positively and as quickly as possible.
It's worth then, from time to time, reflecting on the nature of suffering and hardship and contemplating what good we can take from it as often as possible. Which is what this NY Times article effectively does…
by David Brooks
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in a bunch of conversations in which the unspoken assumption was that the main goal of life is to maximize happiness. That’s normal. When people plan for the future, they often talk about all the good times and good experiences they hope to have. We live in a culture awash in talk about happiness. In one three-month period last year, more than 1,000 books were released on Amazon on that subject.
But notice this phenomenon. When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
Now, of course, it should be said that there is nothing intrinsically ennobling about suffering. Just as failure is sometimes just failure (and not your path to becoming the next Steve Jobs) suffering is sometimes just destructive, to be exited as quickly as possible.
But some people are clearly ennobled by it. Think of the way Franklin Roosevelt came back deeper and more empathetic after being struck with polio. Often, physical or social suffering can give people an outsider’s perspective, an attuned awareness of what other outsiders are enduring.
But the big thing that suffering does is it takes you outside of precisely that logic that the happiness mentality encourages. Happiness wants you to think about maximizing your benefits. Difficulty and suffering sends you on a different course…
…I strongly encourage you to take just a few more minutes to read the remainder of this article HERE (it will, I'm pretty sure, be worth it)