Suffering vs. Pain

I was listening to a WNPR (CT Public Radio) radio show (The Colin McEnroe Show) and he was interviewing Byron Katie (of The Work).

In their conversation Katie said something to effect of “all suffering comes from thought.”

This McEnroe took some issue with.

It was, unfortunately, a mis-understanding borne of not defining the term “suffering.”

McEnroe was talking about things like cancer and losing all one’s money to a crooked business partner and arguing that such things weren’t the result of thinking.

He’s right, but the things he were referring to are “pain;” actual phenomena and events.

Katie is talking about the mental dis-ease one creates when they use their mind and thoughts in ways that don’t work, that don’t serve their effectiveness and happiness.

This “suffering” is not pain. It’s something else. Katie would say that it’s believing things that just aren’t true. (And if people would dispute thoughts that don’t serve them, through The Work, then they would be much better off.)

I’m grateful for having heard their conversation and for realizing the pain vs. suffering distinction.

And I’m looking forward to challenging thoughts that don’t serve me when I’m feeling bad, or not feeling as good as I could.

What about you? Do you have thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve you? What if you disputed and released them? As Katie would say: who would you be without your story?

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  1. This is a great distinction and I’m so glad you posted this as I missed the interview on NPR. I’ve studied BK’s work and subscribe. The mind is a very powerful thing that can work for and against us. Yet there are many subtleties that are at play to cause this pain or joy. Having experienced depression in our family, I choose to practice healthy habits for the mind. This is a good exercise you post; thank you again!!

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